The annual Gooney Bird Greene unit in second grade is a Graland tradition that has students reading books, expanding their vocabulary and dressing up as wacky characters. This year, they are also visiting the Gates lab for a lesson in empathy, creativity and innovation. Second-grade teachers, innovation specialists and library teachers all collaborated to ensure the effort was integrated across disciplines.
Gooney Bird Greene is the main character in a series of books by author Lois Lowry. A second-grader, the girl’s eccentric outfits and “absolutely true” tall tales enthrall her classmates while teaching readers about the art of storytelling. For their Tinker Time lesson with Elizabeth Leddy, Graland students are studying the books’ characters, empathizing with their challenges, and designing something to help them succeed in school and in their relationships. For example, one of Gooney Bird’s peers, Barry, has a hard time remembering to raise his hand in class. What can second graders design to help him stop blurting out his answers?
For those in the first phase of the project, ideating, “First you need to make a plan,” Mrs. Leddy instructed. “Brainstorm ways to help one of the characters in the book and talk over many different ideas with your partner. Then, as you start to formulate ideas, take a look at the materials table to see what is available for you to use.”
Later, students set to work making their ideas tangible in the build phase. For Barry, some students made a “Shhhh” sign that he could wear on his wrist to remind him to stop before speaking and raise his hand.
Other lessons in the Gooney Bird Greene unit include creative writing and making inferences about characters from the text. This lesson in the Gates lab gives students experience in using empathy and design thinking skills that they will use later for their Biography Project when they will similarly develop an invention to help the person they are studying.
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.