Back to School

I had an opportunity today to attend a one-day workshop on constructivism in education. This philosophy of education has been the foundation of my teaching practice for well over 25 years, so you would think that my learning would have been strictly in the area of meeting new people and building my professional network. That happened, of course, but I also learned many new-to-me strategies and activities to engage in constructivist practices in the classroom.

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One of the activities was called the “Play-Doh Activity.” The conference facilitators provided each table with a number of very small containers of Play-Doh. They charged us to work together to create a Play-Doh representation of what constructivist teaching looks like. The idea was to collaboratively decide how we could visually represent, in symbolic/abstract form, the essential elements of constructivist teaching practice. The challenge led to some great discussion, negotiation, and collaborative participation in creating the visual product.


We chose to create a plant to represent constructivist teaching. A plant is a living, growing organism, and so is good constructivist teaching. We decided that each of us would create one or more parts of the plant (collaboration), and then assemble the plant as we completed our parts. Here’s our plant:


I’ve always said that “I’m no artist,” and this seemed to be the case with most of us at our table. (We did have an art teacher at the table, and we kept asking her to do all the artistic/creative stuff!)


This workshop was a one-day teaser for a full, week-long conference that is being planned for next summer. The original constructivist conference, developed by the Institute for Learning-Centered Education, takes place every summer in Canton, NY. There is a team that has been working for the past year or two to reproduce this conference in Rochester, NY. It looks like we’ll be hosting the first Rochester constructivist conference at St. John Fisher College next August. Let me know if you’re interested in attending.

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