Pond Springs uses student voice with choice to engage learning

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-5-24-13-pmOn Fridays, student enthusiasm at Pond Springs Elementary School is at an all-time high; and it’s not because they have the weekend ahead of them. It’s because Friday is enrichment day.

Three times per year, students, led by teachers, use brainstorming techniques to determine a selection of enrichment topics that interest them. Students are then surveyed regarding which topic they’d like to spend the next eight weeks learning.

“We have found that the strategy breathes energy and a sense of purpose into children’s learning,” Pond Springs Principal Edie Binns said. “When students have choices in their learning, they get excited about learning and sharing their knowledge. They’re likely to think more deeply and creatively, work with more persistence, and use a range of academic skills and strategies.”

Some of the student selected topics include: culinary commentator, iPad photography, magic, zoology, jewelry design, invention-eering, pottery, fitness, school landscaping and 3-D printing.

Students learned about 3-D printers by assembling one for the school. They also took online tutorials on 3-D design and designed a piece to print in the 3-D printer. A mechanical engineer visited the campus and spoke to the students about the 3-D design process and how he uses it to prototype his designs.

“I chose the 3-D printer group because I thought I would challenge myself to do something a little different,” said Lilianna Villegas, Pond Springs fourth-grade student. “I’ve always been interested in technology, and this is something that is the new generation, that probably no other school is doing.”

Learning through enrichment provides students the opportunity to explore topics not necessarily related to regular state-mandated curriculum and aligns with goals 1 through 5 of the District’s strategic plan.

“By providing students with choice, they feel heard. What they are learning seems more important,” Binns said.

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