|Riding a Google Double Decker Bus|
While the bus ride was the beginning of the day, the journey began much earlier. My teammate, Jen, wanted our students to learn to code. Problem was, she didn’t know how to code either.
Luckily, she found Khan Academy and a buzz spread through campus. When the Bay Area LearnStorm challenge popped up, the focus switched to using Khan Academy to Learn Math. During Intervention (Surf Lessons) students began exclaiming, “Oh. I did this in Khan!” When students come to me for Surf Lessons, they know that once they have met the success criteria and proven they understand the concept, they can return to attending specials the next day with their class. Suddenly, students began to ask if they could stay an extra day or the rest of the week and work on Math through Khan Academy. They could go to PE or Art, but they were choosing to stay and learn math.
Our top five students were chosen based on Khan data. What I loved was seeing that most of our top students were kids I’d seen in Intervention. They weren’t the kids that always get 100%. They were kids that made it to the top for our school in Khan through perseverance and determination. It was also pretty awesome, in my opinion, that 4 out of 5 were girls.
|Each team had a leaders from Google or Khan,
15 kids ranging from 3rd to High School,
and a couple teachers.
What surprised me the most though was their level of apprehension. Some students needed to be talked into attending. This trek to the Google Campus which was about 1.5 hours away was one of the biggest trips they’d ever been on. We we arrived, there were lines by last name for students to check in.
I pointed out the correct line to the 5th grade boy that came with us. He looked at me like I was crazy. “You want me to get in that line?! By myself?!!?” I stayed with him in the line hoping he’d be OK as I noticed each of our students had a different color shirt which meant they were all in different teams.
|Sal Khan Kicking Off the Event|
After a few moments of gathering into teams with like colored shirts and meeting our team leads, the announcers came out to pump up the crowd. Sal Khan came out and told the kids how amazing it was for them to make it to this event. Only 300 students out of 73,000 made it to the finals.
The first activity was a Rock, Paper, Scissors Challenge. Everyone was to turn to someone near them and play. The person who won would then look for a new person to challenge while the person they defeated would become their cheering section. Eventually it was down to just two players and huge cheering sections.
This would be a quick easy classroom activity if you were looking for a fun little break.
|Our team leader introduces challenges.|
We walked down to another of the Google parks. Our team leader began to explain the challenges and the schedules. It was a lot of information. Our leader had a ton of energy and personality and the kids all stared at her in silence. There were many activities to choose from when were at our stations and the kids would quietly choose one and work.
One of the things that I noticed all day was that there were three hundred kids on this field and it was near silent most of the time. The teacher in me wanted to step in and play some ice breaker games. Get the kids to know each other. Pair them up. I could see that the silence wasn’t just respect and concentration. They didn’t know each other and they were shy academic kids. But this was after all a competition and there was limited time. The high schoolers ended up talking to one another, but most of the other kids wanted to work alone.
|Two high school students work together to solve word problems.|
There were three types of challenges. There was an individual math test, challenges that a small group would head off to do, and challenges that could be completed at our home base.
The home base challenges included things like tanrams, sudoku puzzles, and riddles. I loved one of the simplest challenges which was encouraging a growth mindset about the power of YET. They simply had to complete sentences like “I’m not good at ____ yet.” “I don’t know how to ____ yet.”
|A third grader attempts a tangram.|
|Life Size Abacus|
My favorite group even was the abacus. They used ropes and cut up pool noodles to create a giant abacus and they had the kids represent numbers on it. Then they challenged them to use it to solve math problems.
|One of our little ones was so excited about ‘purchasing’ this mask
during the depot activity.
One of the group challenges that the younger students faced was shopping at a depot and trying use mental math to make sure it all fell in a certain price range.
|Lunch on the Google Campus|
By lunch time there was a little bit of a hum as students warmed up to each other. They provided nice box lunches for everyone. As I was sitting on the grass eating lunch, the one students from my school that was in my group asked where I got the water. I pointed to a nearby table full of water bottles. I was a little confused when she didn’t stand up to get one. But, she is pretty shy and quiet so I thought maybe she was working up the nerve. I was exercising restraint all day trying to let her push herself and fighting the urge to rescue her so I didn’t offer to get her one. A few minutes later she asks, “Are they free?”
This moment really stuck with me. When you grow up in poverty, money is always an issue. While so many kids and adults didn’t think twice about the fact that we were provided with a free lunch and free water, to her it was a big deal.
|Sal Khan helping the students know how special they are.|
After lunch we went inside for the awards ceremony. There were amazing prizes from big names like Pixar and the 49ers. Every child was able to reach under their chair and find an envelope with tickets to something special like a museum.
|My teammate, Jen Ellison, share on stage with Sal Khan sharing about our students’ journey.|
|Some of our students meeting Sal Khan.|
Do you see that smile on our 5th grade boy? The same boy that was too shy to stand in line to get his shirt, walked up to Sal Khan at the end of the day and poked him in the belly. Apparently, it is his thing.
Our students were spread throughout the auditorium. At the end most of them found their way to us but we couldn’t find one. One of our students and teachers went to look for her. When they found her outside, they weren’t allowed back in and missed our chance to meet Sal Khan which was a bummer. But the girl that went outside was on a winning team and gets to choose a prize from an amazing list of prizes including a tour of Pixar. So, I’m pretty sure she’ll get over it.
|Jen and I on the bus ride home.|
The contrast between the morning bus ride and the evening bus ride was amazing.
On the way there, the only sound on the bus was two kids from another school having an intense debate about math. I couldn’t help but laugh as things like “Pi is so much better than Tau!” and “Two is the best prime number because it is the only one that is even!” were shouted. Our kids, however, silent. Maybe a whisper here and there.
On the way home these scared, quiet, shy kids were LOUD. They were laughing and talking and having a great time. I heard more words from some of these kids than I have in the years I’ve known them.
|Fun and laughter on the ride home|