“The Best Day Ever”

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that every day during Spring Break this year at Walt Disney World was “The best day EVER” for my two children. Who am I kidding? It was the same for my husband and me. My kids though literally said that exact sentence at the end of every day.

We spent 7 days in “the most magical place on earth” and it truly was magical for each one of us. We stayed at a resort considered “on-site” meaning that we had some special access to events and early park openings — I am sure there are other perks that come with it too — but you get the gist here. We met characters, rode rides, enjoyed snacks, and special meals all over the parks. We made sure to have mandatory nap time each day as well to keep the fun going late into the night as well. It was all a part of the experience, the magic, the family vacation. I absolutely loved seeing Walt Disney World through their eyes as well as my own. The energy, the excitement, the delight in the experience as a whole was incredible and I look forward to another adventure there in the future. I can only imagine all of those days will also be “the best days ever” as well.

What made the days so great?

Was is the fact that they flew in an airplane for the first time? We were staying at a Disney Resort as a family complete with a bunk bed in the room? Having a “geyser” explode by the pool? Having the option of riding in a Minnie-Van (think Disney’s version of Uber or Lyft), Disney Express bus, or boat to arrive to the various parks? Was it that they had never experienced this place before? Nearly unlimited snacks? Later bedtime? So many things here..where do we start?

I contend that it was all of these. It was an experience filled with wonder, imagination, new things, and lots of unknowns. They were making discoveries, experiencing a new place with new rules, it was different from their normal day to day…

It made me almost constantly think — how can we do this with education?

What do you think?

Can we add wonder? Suspense? New experiences? Discovery? Different rules? A break from the norm?

Yes. But I warn you, it might be difficult, it might require some different types and more intense planning, a bit of creativity, your students might have fun, they might be excited to learn, they might even say “It’s the best day ever”— but I can guarantee it will be worth it.

Start small. Take one thing, lesson, activity, and make a small change. How can you add a sense of wonder, mystery, or some sort of out of the ordinary start for students?

I just came up with what I am going to do tomorrow morning.

You read that right…tomorrow…morning.

I am here, Sunday night, writing to and for you all…and BOOM. I’m going to start tomorrow morning with a mystery for my students to solve. In fact, they will not be able to begin anything tomorrow in the lab without solving the mystery. It will have no tie to my content (GASP) — it will just be something that grabs their attention and requires them to upset the normal routine. Mondays can drag anyway, right?

I’m going to hide the pencils, markers, crayons, and colored pencils.

You read that right.

I am going to tape them to the bottom of their chairs and tables.

But wait — they are going to find this exciting, they will not have to participate at all…they are going to love it — and probably rejoice that they are off the hook for the day…they are going to totally turn on me, aren’t they?

Guess what — they aren’t going to want to be off the hook.

Tomorrow, they get to design their own fish and play a game called “match mine”. We have been studying how to complete a fish survey, they have begun to master the vocabulary of marine biologists to describe fish and their marking and they even know how to identify to the species level, specific fish found in the Caribean in preparation for a field study they will carry out in June on location in the Florida Keys. (I’ll have to give you more information about this project, in a new post)

Why does this matter? Well, a lot of reasons — but mostly, for tomorrow…because they get to create their own fish then describe it to others using that specific vocabulary and their partner, based on the description, will have to draw it. You see, I just snuck in field science protocols, communication skills, art, and FUN. Yeah, I said it, FUN.

But remember, I will have hidden their necessary materials. They can’t complete the FUN until they have found the writing and coloring utensils. Oh my goodness, what if there is a ransom note in the places where I store these materials?

Oh snap.

The activity was going to already be something they looked forward to, but do you see how disrupting the norm is going to cause it to be even better?

I know, you know, that we both know — there will be a student or two possibly that take this as an opportunity to kind of hang back, waste time, and possibly try to derail the fun. Count on in. But guess what? We aren’t going to allow it to derail us — we know it might happen but we have a choice here as the educator/adult/master of the laboratory…we can allow it to take control or remain calm and focus on the 99% (hopefully 100%) that are taking the challenge seriously, moving around, finding materials and causing such a happy disturbance on a Monday morning that your colleagues will come and close YOUR door because you are just having too much fun. (this has definitely happened to me many times)

And that’s not allowed in school. (you know I’m kidding, right?)

Or maybe, they will be in on it too — maybe you can’t wait to tell them your plan and all of the classrooms will jump in on it….and the school will be in a scurry tomorrow morning — such happy chaos — so much intrigue — so much wonder that everyone’s door will be wide open and the students will not be able to contain themselves at lunch and will talk about their sneaky teachers…who hid their supplies all day.

One can hope, right?

This is a very small change that is not normal, it will require extra effort on my part, it will get crazy up in the lab…but it’s going to be “so Disney”, it’s going to be “the best day ever” and I can’t wait.

What are you going to do? Want to be supply hiding buddies? Share your Disney Effect on Twitter and tag me @schnekser ! I’d love to share in your adventure. Do you have a different Disney Effect idea? SHARE!!!!!

Let’s do this!