#EdCampKids: Sharing, Learning, Connecting

EdCamp PosterHave you ever attended an Edcamp?  If the answer is yes, then you know how powerful and energizing this learning experience can be for educators.  As teachers we wondered if this same structure could be just as powerful and uplifting for kids?  The answer is yes!  Two years ago we did an #EdcampKids with grades 3-5 at J.W. Reason Elementary.  It was even more successful than we imagined.

The following year I switched to a new grade level, which was 5th grade, and as a grade level team we had not implemented an Edcamp for Kids.  The year, just like every year, was speeding by and we were at a point in the school year where we were reflecting on our teaching and learning. My colleagues and I decided that our 5th graders needed to do an Edcamp for Kids for the following reasons:

  1. Students need opportunities to take ownership of their learning and develop what they are passionate about.
  2. Students need to have voice and choice on how they will organize and communicate their learning.
  3. Students needed to think about if they work best individually, with a partner, or with a small group.
  4. Students need to reflect on their learning and their learning experiencesStudents need to have choice in what they will learn and the opportunity to learn from one another.

Getting Started

The students needed to understand what an Edcamp is and how it works.  The boys and girls needed to know that they would be teaching each other in small groups; and that each person or group would be in charge of what they would present and how they would present the information.  The Edcamp for kids would be for one afternoon.  Here are the following resources we used to help the student understand the question – What is an Edcamp?

After we had laid the groundwork for what an Edcamp is it was time to move into some mini-lessons on what kind of language might be used during a session, the pacing of a session, and the organization of a session. This required using some more videos and really analyzing them for the following:

  • How are the steps broken down and simplified for everyone to follow?
  • What specific vocabulary was used and why?
  • How was the learning modeled?
  • How long did the instruction/modeling take?
  • Was there a finished product to look at before the instruction began?
  • How did the presenter start and end?

Here are some possible videos to use for these lessons:

We knew that some of these lessons would probably need to be revisited once students were in the nitty gritty of planning but these lessons also gave students a vision of the type of work they would be doing and which passions they would want to possibly share at the #EdcampKids.   

Once we had done a few mini-lessons and the students were really excited and motivated to get started planning we had each student fill out this brainstorming sheet. Then it was important to talk to students about who wanted to share their work with a small audience.  Anyone who didn’t want a live audience could think about how to share their expertise digitally. Students filled out a Google Form for the teachers to go through and decide how many students would be presenting. This form also helped the teachers make the schedule for the sessions.  

As students continued to work on their Edcamp passions, our mini-lessons moved into possible tools that organize their information, possible tools that help communicate their learning, and any other topics that needed to be addressed based on the students’ writing work.  Students would still continue to share out their progress and get feedback along the way in writing workshop.  After about 3 weeks of preparation, the students were ready for Edcamp!

EdCamp Learning Reflections

Once the schedule was finalized we went over it with the students.  As teachers, we needed to show the students how to read the schedule.  Students then were able to pick three choices during each session.  We did have a cap of 15 students per session so if the session was full when a student arrived then he/she would head off to his/her next choice.  Here is the schedule for the #EdCampKids and some learning fun!

Chemistry Experiments

Football

Superheroes and Villains

Guitar

 

It was great to see kids learning a variety of topics from basic computer coding to how to pitch a baseball.  The only regret that we have is that the students only had one opportunity to truly take ownership of their learning.  This should have been a process that occurred throughout the year so that different students could present and share their various passions.  If students had more than one opportunity they could reflect and make changes on how they would share their information.  It is powerful to see students adjust and make changes to fit their audience even if it means veering from their original plan.   Some students needed more opportunities to think about how to engage their audience more because they just completed the writing work without truly writing with an audience in mind. Some students needed to work on how to adjust the pacing of their lesson.  

In our ever changing world, we share work with small groups and with wider audiences.  Sometimes our work is shared face to face, sometimes our work is shared digitally, and sometimes it is both face to face and digitally.  Students need to know how to share their work in various ways and decide which tools will help them communicate and connect their learning. Edcamp for Kids should not be just an event but part of the ongoing learning that fuels students’ passions in purposeful and authentic ways.

Tonya Buelow

Tonya Buelow is an instructional coach at Darby Creek Elementary. She enjoys reading books on the beach and spending time with her family. Tonya is passionate about teaching students to build a reading and writing life using the workshop approach. She has been teaching in Hilliard City Schools for 22 years and appreciates all the wonderful colleagues that push her thinking each and every day.