Drawing on What I Know

Have any of you made a mood board? Well, I haven’t either but need to make one for one of my last assignments for grad school. It is to accompany a “Design for Optimal Learning”  lesson that I create. Although I know what components I would want to make a design for optimal learning, choosing the subject was somewhat more difficult. Of course, there are requirements for this assignment, and I will not spend any time describing those to you.

But, the components I felt necessary to include are:

  • Student Driven
  • Student Centered
  • Ownership
  • Pride
  • A Sense of Accomplishment
  • Multi-leveled scaffolding
  • Community Involvement and/or Partnerships
  • Awe
  • Utilization of a Growth Mindset
  • Creativity

So, before I bore you with all the details of the paper portion of the assignment and how all the characteristics relate to the field of Educational Psychology, I will just tell you that in my lesson for optimal learning, elementary students will research, design, and plant a hummingbird garden on their school grounds!

Sound familiar? If you know me well enough, it should!  In 2006, I led a similarly aged group of students through a process much like what I described above to convert an old perennial bed on our school grounds to a butterfly garden. Quickly, the garden became a Certified Monarch Waystation. But, the process I observed, and the results I noted while intuitively conducting that project, such as student engagement, pride, ownership, self-directed learning, and motivation all speak to how I’ve continued to conduct and provide lessons to my students.  It is peer and community supported learning that actually gets the learning done without the pressure of adhering to standards and mandatory assessments.

Today, someone asked me what I will do when I finish my degree next month. She wanted to know if I would teach. My answer, which was well-practiced and succinct, was I hope so, but not in a classroom.  I went on to explain that this degree still does not confer a teaching license. I’ve also come to realize that the students I see in my groups are getting a learning experience better than what I could provide in a classroom setting. They have a voice and choice in what we learn. Our learning, and I say “ours” purposely, is driven by their awe, curiosity, and sense of place. They are exposed to a wealth of information from multiple subject areas and content levels. I know now that I could not provide the same experience in a traditional classroom. It would have to be somewhere very special that would allow me to be the teacher/facilitator and environmental educator that I’ve grown to be. I am not sure I can find a place like that, no matter how much I want to, or how hard I try.

But, what about this mood board I referred to earlier? Wikipedia states that a “mood board is a type of collage that consists of images, text, and samples of objects in a composition.” In the case of making one for this class, it must convey the “feel” of my design for optimal learning. and have images somewhat related to the topic. It should not be hard, with the exception of the technology piece. Of course, I want it to be much more involved that just framing a bunch of photos on a page in random fashion. I want to “fill” in areas of the page with the images.

I have several ideas on what to include and how to do it. Since this is my last course, I’ve already had a media design class using Adobe’s InDesign and Photoshop Software. I use Photoshop on a weekly basis to edit photographs. But, InDesign?  It was not all that hard to use, but using it more than a year and a half later presented a few problems today. Luckily, I saved the course tutorials and will be able to refer to the section that I need to complete the Mood Board Collage in the manner that I am imagining.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird, September 2018. © Carol Labuzzetta

My lesson for optimal learning as well as my mood board both have me drawing on past experiences. Isn’t that what we all do at work and in our daily lives? I think so. In fact, I know so.

I know what images I am looking for to convey my design for optimal learning. Given the list of components I feel necessary to include, what images would you use? I am curious.


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