Inspired by the North Star Approach, Florida Middle School teacher Donna Thomas has been using The North Star's themes and messages in her own way to lead her students, dubbed The North Star Class of Creative Learners, on their own unique learning voyages.
As Donna explains, "When I first read The North Star, I felt like this book defined what I've come to recognize during my 23 years of teaching... If a child LEARNS differently, then I must TEACH differently! Every child does not have the same path to take, and that's O.K.! Strengths and weaknesses, diversity, creativity, individuality... all of these characteristics, and more, are what makes this world so interesting. I feel that each child is a star, and it's a teacher's job to make them "twinkle" in the classroom! Peter Reynolds, author of The North Star, relays that message perfectly in his book.
"The students I teach in The North Star Class of Creative Learners benefit from a hands-on, project-based style of teaching/learning. We help each student identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and focus on and/or build on these areas. They typically learn best by actually "doing" or "creating," and generally speaking, they cover the same information as their peers who are in the traditional setting, just in a more creative way." A great example of a "hands-on" learning project Donna's students participated in during the 1999-2000 school year was FableVision's "North Star Dreaming" Clay Animation Festival, which invited students to create 30-60 second clay animation films based the theme "My North Star Dream for the Future". Check out the clay animation images above - scenes from entries submitted by Donna's students: "Hop to it!" created by Kristin T., and "Clay Rock", a group entry created by Daniel S., Jerome S., and Angela T.
And what impact has being in The North Star Class of Creative Learners had on her students? "It has resulted in improved grades as well as improved self-esteem," says Donna. "It has also put my students in the public eye for their wonderful achievements, such as being photographed by the Orlando Sentinel as they were Creating a Comet in the Classroom, and having several of their essays published by Education-World.com, an internet site 'where educators go to learn.' Overall, it's helped raise interest and acceptance of the fact that not everyone has to learn in the same way to be 'O.K.'"
Feel free to e-mail Donna if you'd like to learn more about the North Star Class of Creative Learners, or check out their web page!