In our second column taking a lighter look at education, we reflect on the enduring value of a beloved tradition.
Oh, the hand turkey: Traditional staple of grade-school Thanksgiving-themed lessons. If you've been a student at any point in the past 50 years (at least — I'll be the first to admit my lack of credentials as a hand turkey historian), you've probably made one. If you're an educator, odds are your students will make them in the coming week if they haven't already.
The concept is simple, providing students a creative cognitive break from more serious curricular fare. This remains true regardless of the assignment's complexity, whether the turkey is simply traced, finger-painted, composed of a collage, etc.
But can a hand turkey be more than just a hand turkey?
The prevalence of technology in modern classrooms has presented a handful of opportunities to rethink this assignment, adding a little more educational weight, imparting valuable new skills while maintaining the assignment's light nature. Here are a few of our favorite examples.
Getting techy with your turkey
Perhaps the simplest approach to adding a little technology to this lesson was documented by educator Mike Fowler with a class of 8th graders. During a Boston trip to Plimoth Plantation, Fowler had students record short videos detailing what they had learned. Then, using Aurasma and the QR code technology (readily available in any modern mobile device), students were able to attach those videos to the hand turkeys they created in class, allowing any passerby in the hallway to access their videos with a quick scan of their artwork.
The approach ultimately maintains the creative simplicity of the hand turkey itself while granting students an opportunity to gain skills creating multimedia content, additionally requiring them to consider the best method to present their message in a different format than, say, writing.
Making a gobbler
For those schools with perhaps the most-coveted of technological resources — a makerspace — comes the ability to rethink the humble hand turkey from the ground up. Makerspace-based approaches can impart valuable lessons in areas like computer-aided design and manufacturing, while also giving kids a cool memento of the experience, albeit one that mom might not be able to hang on the fridge as easily.
At the Baltimore Node Makerspace, for example, past events have allowed learners of all ages to create wooden laser-cut turkeys. And for those with 3-D printers, designs are available online and can perhaps even be tweaked and individualized by students. Mashable notes, however, that the process can be timely at an hour-and-a-half, so teachers will also likely need to work with the appropriate staff members to coordinate the actual fabrication of students' designs.
The important thing, however, is recognizing that you don't necessarily need something as complex or advanced as a 3-D printer or a laser cutter to expand students' horizons with an assignment this simple. With a little creative thought, there are surely a number of other opportunities available. And if you'd like to share, we'd love to hear them and update this piece with your submissions. Feel free to send your favorites to [email protected]