"Renaissance Fair Collage"

A couple weeks ago, I received an invite to a ‘Renaissance Fair‘ at a neighbouring Middle School. It was an honour to be invited, since the reason for the invite was that they based the fair on the model Don Gordon wrote about in the paper I linked to above. It was an even greater honour when I went to the fair and the teacher told me that he specifically used my ‘da Vinci Project’ as the one he taught. To this day, I think that this was one of the best projects that I every participated in.


Here is a quick video of Derek (with permission from his mom, who was at the fair), sharing his model of one of da Vinci’s tanks at the fair last week. His mom was very proud of Derek, took a lot of photos of his two projects, and told me how she loved his interest in projects like this, and wished he had more of a chance to do things like this at school.

[Link to video]

We haven’t had a showcasing fair yet, but our dedicated inquiry time at Inquiry Hub Secondary School is provided to allow students to study things that interest them, and we want them to share their work with a greater audience.

Leonardo da Vinci can be attributed as an iconic Renaissance Man (forgive the gender bias, a throwback from his time). He had a driving curiosity that gave him a passion to learn about his world around him. It was that kind of passion that I also saw in students, and teachers, who put aside their core classes (Math, English, Social Studies and Science) for two weeks while they dedicated time to learning in depth about different aspects of the Renaissance period. Students then created two cumulative projects to share their learning in a community fair. I think we can digitally share this work in wonderful ways too!

For me, not only was this yearly Renaissance Fair a great project, it also came at a time when I was formulating ideas about meaningfully integrating technology ‘for learning’ into my classroom.

From my post: We aren’t in the ‘teaching business’, rather we are in the ‘learning business’.

I worked at a school where we did a Renaissance Fair. For just over two weeks core subjects were shut down and all Grade 8 students across six (and in some years seven) classes took ‘cross-disciplinary courses’ on the Renaissance. First, teachers designed courses such as “Leonardo Da Vinci and Inventions”, Warfare, Medicine, “Bard in the Courtyard”, Lifestyle, and Architecture. Then, students filled out resumes and application forms and applied to these classes based on their favourite ‘course’ outlines, provided in a brochure.

Each student took two courses, 80 minutes a day for 10-12 classes, in which they had to build/design/create cumulative projects that they needed to display/perform/present at a large Renaissance Fair in our school gym.

From Wiki’s in the Classroom: a Reflection

The Renaissance Fair starts this week. Early last year I saw an Alan November webcast and decided to take the plunge with my Renaissance project… I had the students blogging! I spent hours learning how to set everything up, and more hours again developing blogging rules and lessons on using tools such as del.icio.us. The experience was wonderful! It opened my eyes to the potential of web2.0.

From Sharing and Engaging: Web 2-Point-Oh-Yeah!

Here are my Ah-ha moments with the world of Web2.0h-Yeah!
These are two on-line ‘conversations’ that happened to in my 10-day Da Vinci Renaissance Fair Project that I did, which included a blogging component. Neither of them are outwardly profound, but when they happened they were profound to me in that they showed me the potential the web has for engaging students as ‘owners’ of their learning.

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• In Vanja’s first blog entry, she posed an open-ended question and then said she was going to search for more information on the topic. She got a comment on her post and personally responded to it, mentioning that she was still seeking information. Then Charlotte commented and here is Vanja’s next response:
“ ..umm Charlotte I was actually hoping that you would actually post something to either contradict or go along with my observations.. not just say that’s meaningful and true.. Tell me what you think is meaningful and true!!” – – – – –

Vanja both wanted, and demanded a learning conversation. For me it was wonderful to see a student expecting more from her peers, or should I say, from her community of learners.


• In our Social Forum, (a community blog), Andrew asks, “we need some help trying to figure out what the animal in Leonardo’s drawing is.

…[comment 5.]According to my close observation, it looks neither like an ox or a cow. Because it’s horn is too long, and it looks too slim and skinny to be like a cow or an ox. So I think it might be a goat or something other than cows. (Like what Alessandra had said) But why is that animal over there? It is there for a reason??

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I was asked yesterday in a Math Learning Committee, “How do you know when your students are learning? My quick response was, “When they are asking the right questions.” That is exactly what Lily did above. What I liked most about her comment is that I thought of her question, (Why is the animal there?), before reading the comments. That question was going to be my ‘teacher comment’… but the students didn’t need their teacher here!

I couldn’t believe the breadth and depth of what was shared on-line.

From: Blogging with students requires biting your [digital] tongue

There are some great observations here. My emphasis in the class is on Da Vinci the inventor and scientist, but look at the student generated interest in his artwork! Would this kind of [off topic?] interaction happen in a classroom? Would it happen if this was a paper assignment?

Now here is the challenge for me… LET THE ‘CONVERSATION’ HAPPEN!

When I read, “…maybe she was getting married, or she was getting married to John the baptist…” I really wanted to post a little timeline. Earlier I actually started typing a comment suggesting that perhaps Da Vinci used the same model for both paintings, then erased it rather than posting it… I forced myself to ‘bite my tongue’.

The fact is that I am not used to letting students take ownership of their learning in this way. I want to ‘teach’ them… isn’t that my job?

Putting together projects like this, blogging with students, and creating ‘messy‘ inquiry projects are challenging to do well as a teacher… but the rewards of seeing your students express their learning, and themselves (see this clip [at 25:30] from Royan Lee), beyond your own expectations, makes it extremely worthwhile!