UTICA — If your students didn’t have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room? That was the question posed by Utica Junior High principal Ryan McLane, and on May 22, Teach Like a Pirate Day, some answers came to light.
Pirate in this case, by the way, does not refer to those sea-faring swash-bucklers of yore. It is an acronym for passion, immersion, rapport, ask/analyze, transformation and enthusiasm.
Every middle school student had the opportunity to choose which classes they would attend that day, and the attendance rate was a very respectable 98 percent. Teachers provided an amazing array of experiences including lawn games, stop-motion animation, producing an Internet radio show, a straw tower competition, Jenga and a modern-day William Tell.
The big hits of the day, the News was told, were: Science experiments with Darin Prince, which included using an air vortex generator to knock cups off of kids’ heads; Native American Pow-wow with Howard Hill and Willy Wonka’s create-your-own candy bar with Michelle Williams.
Another popular activity was Mystery Skype with McLane.
“We Skyped with classes in Wisconsin, New York, and Delaware,” McLane explained. “By asking yes/no questions, we had to figure out the town they were in and they had to figure out we were in Utica.”
The inspiration for the adventurous school day came from a book, “Teach Like a Pirate,” written by California social studies instructor and author Dave Burgess. Burgess encourages educators to think outside the box and develop lessons and teaching strategies that that convey content in a way the students will remember.
“Our teachers did a fantastic job and it was a phenomenal success,” McLane said. “Students were engaged, they were having fun and they were learning. The author of the book actually called me to find out how it went. I am working with him to pick a date for next year so that he can attend. We are looking to make it bigger and better next year.”
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