Mastery, Autonomy, Purpose

I recently tuned into the Safe For Work Podcast and the hosts were giving a mention of Daniel Pink’s Drive. What really motivates us, and what really satisfies us? In their quick Cliffs’ Notes, what it boils down to is Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose surrounding what we do, or what we are asked to do. Hearing these three words seemed to be so serendipitous with my recent observations of what was unfolding in the Innovation Lab during the culmination of a 5th grade unit of study on Immigration.

Following several months of investigation, research, and nonfiction writing, students were now tasked to create a way to showcase their understanding and learning of a particular immigration event, figure, or concept. Their choices included trifolds, videos, powerpoints, music pieces, or models. During their PBL time, they were able to utilize different spaces and resources around school to create their showcase vision. A few student groups worked in the Innovation Lab for weeks to create a model or diorama of their idea. All were thoughtful and beautiful. They represented a fair amount of planning, material manipulation, and craft prior to finally being set up for display this morning.

One project in particular stood out to me for its unique inception and the deep thought and time two young women took to iterate again and again until it met their standards to be on display. After seeing a photo of the various styles of border wall proposed by President Trump, Maeve and Audrianna wanted to build a model to show others what these wall styles would look or feel like. They spent hours selecting and prepping a variety of materials to create both the shape and texture of various construction materials (without having to actually work with the real proposed materials, like barbed wire or corrugated steel). They thought about scale and how to space out the models to have a sense of size. They figured out how to make each wall model stand up with supports that blended into the landscape. They researched the area where they proposed wall would be built, and spent several days creating a desert sandscape on each side of the wall to reflect that potential environment. They found a thingiverse file of a jeep and learned how to independently operate the Makerbot and change out the filament so the Jeep would be green (yay for student independence with our green and yellow tools in the lab!), similar to the military ATV they saw in the wall concept photo. They then created mini signage to place facts and quotes around their model, mixed with No Trespassing signs. Watching it all come together was awesome. Each time they visited the Lab, the model was improved upon as they thought of new ideas. The end result was a very moving piece that displayed their learning of current immigration events (some projects were also about historical immigration events or figures). They spoke candidly of why they chose this topic and how different push and pull factors could inform a person’s decision to leave their home country.

Showcase Day

Over the course of the last few weeks, what they (and many other groups, too!) had developed was a sense of Mastery over this choice topic. Autonomy in finding a way to construct it and working away on their own terms and schedule to achieve their final product. And Purpose in believing what they were making was vital to the understanding of any conversation about Immigration.

It was such beautiful work, and an honored process to be a part of.