Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fair Day!

Twice a year Liam's school holds their "Fair" and today was this term's.

What exactly is “Fair” at HIS and why do we do it the way we do?

Fair has been a part of the school since its inception. It has changed somewhat over time but the essentials have remained the same. It performs several functions within our school and helps support some of our fundamental understandings about how people learn best.

Throughout their time at Halifax Independent students are encouraged to engage with the real world as they study and learn. Guest speakers and field trips are an integral aspect of academic life here. On these occasions students see that whatever they are studying in Theme, or Social Studies, Science or French in the Middle School, can be studied or be the basis of employment in the rest of the world. There is little divide between what we do here, and what is done in the world outside school.

People learn in a variety of ways. We each have a style which suits us best, and usually a back-up method which works in a pinch. As students at Halifax Independent study, they are offered a variety of approaches to help them understand and manipulate the subject matter and each approach is manifest during Fair. Students may make models, draw diagrams, write descriptions and stories, conduct experiments, write and present songs and/or plays. Both the process and the product of these activities help to entrench the concepts and skills that they are learning and make their presentations more engaging.

As they work and develop their interests and research skills, students learn to use a variety of methods for gathering information: books, the internet, interviews, documentaries and so on. They work alone and in groups to help develop their understanding of the material they have gathered and finally they learn to present their findings in a variety of formats; speeches, Power Point presentations, songs, plays, written material, graphics and so on. This last step, the Fair, allows them to build their confidence as public speakers as well as to hone their understanding of what makes an engaging presentation.

The Fair encourages a genuine interest in learning and is a motivational force like no other. The process helps foster a sense of pride and accomplishment in each student as well as a strong sense of community as the class gathers together, working at their best, to share their knowledge. They move together toward a common goal, in cooperation with their classmates. The students develop a sense of ownership of the process as well as the outcomes as they work toward Fair. They are involved in the timelines and checklists that are developed to help bring order to the process. This bears fruit in their individual work as they develop and use organizational skills.

Fair allows parents to see firsthand how their child is doing and affords them a very special window into their child’s world. It is an opportunity to watch them interact with their peers and their teacher, to present what they know and to truly give of their best. It is a time to watch them shine!

Liam's class has been studying the human body. Their fair today was set up like a discovery center, with each child hosting an experiment. Liam showed us how the muscles of your esophagus move food into your stomach and then explained how the digestive system filters what it needs into your blood stream and moves everything else out as waste.

And since music is such an important part of this school, they composed a symphony of body sounds (and no, there was no farting!). They used various instruments to show how they imagine each system to sound. Liam played the slide whistle to demonstrate food going through the digestive track.

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