Introducing Mindful Stillness and Project Based Learning

I have two goals this semester with my Math 8 class: 1.  Use some project based learning activities. 2.  Use the MindUp Curriculum to help students relax their minds and increase focus.

I am in my third week of using the MindUp Curriculum, which recommends introducing the “core practice” and using it for 3 weeks before introducing the other lessons.  The introduction to the core practice (a focus on breathing exercise) has been successful.  Over the first few days of class I introduced, and we practiced, listening to a harmonic sound (I use a Zenergy Chime) and then focusing on breathing.  Combining the two activities is the core practice and what we call in our class Mindful Stillness.  At first we had some snickers and fidgeting but today, almost everyone actively participates.  I use mindful stillness to start each class and the exit slips from my students indicate that the majority of them appreciate the 90 – 120 seconds practice to start the lesson.  I notice a definite shift in classroom “energy” before and after our mindful stillness.  Next week, I will start introducing the other lessons (15 in total) involved in the curriculum.

Today I introduced my first math project – building a math arcade.  I didn’t create a driving question for this project as I thought that would be a bit of leap for me to try for my first project.  So I decided to create a project that was more of a build it project with the plan to use a driving question for our next project.  I introduced the project by having my students watch Caine’s Arcade – the first time I saw this I wanted to try something like this with a class.   (In doing some research for this project, I came across a very similar project by Hugh McDonald, @hughtheteacher, you can find his blog here.)  I then presented the project and the math learning outcomes that they need to demonstrate for the project.  I also will use a Collaborative Self Evaluation Rubric, that I found on the Buck Institute of Education website which had architectural planning with pythagoras project in its library.  I was looking for a “template” to plan my project and when looking over this project I found the rubric.  I modified the one from this project and my students will use this as a self assessment tool at the end of the project.  I also told my students at some point in the project they will have to write about their learning – that caused a few funny looks.  Once we discussed the criteria the students created their own teams and started sketching their game ideas.  I provided 3 brainstorming questions to help guide them on their first project, but thinking about it now, I am not sure if needed to do that – my students just went for it.  I was nervous how they would respond to the project but was very happy with how it went today.  I am looking forward to the next few weeks to see how we make our way through our first project.

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