Stories » Cortada 2nd Graders Figure Out Life’s Essential Questions

Cortada 2nd Graders Figure Out Life’s Essential Questions

By: Jasmine Velazquez
Curiosity ignited the classroom when the second-grade students at Cortada, under the guidance of Ms. Healy, embarked on a unique journey of exploration. The innovative initiative, 'Figure it out Friday', designed by their teacher, immersed the students in subjects that piqued their interest. This was not just another assignment; it was an opportunity for each student to delve into, investigate, and share their knowledge on topics that truly fascinated them. 
Mrs. Healy established a flexible yet organized framework for the project. She gave a work packet to every student to help them with their research. This packet includes space for them to record their discoveries, hints to help them think carefully about their issue, and basic instructions on how to conduct research. “The goal was to have kids explore something that they were interested in and use the skills that they learn in school such as reading, writing, curiosity, and more,” explained Ms.Healy. Although there was a defined structure, the students had complete control over the content, allowing them to explore any area that excited their interest. 
The classroom is a knowledge center, and for Ms. Healy’s students, it contains subjects covering everything from butterflies to volcanoes and dinosaurs to space exploration and the amount of jumping jacks you need to do before you start sweating. Students gathered information by reading books, visiting instructional websites, or asking their 6th-grade schoolmates. Cortada 2nd grader Erick M. expressed how he enjoyed learning about everything and anything, “What I like about Figure out Friday is you can do it forever because you get to figure out something you don’t know about.” Erick’s favorite topic from this year was how chicken nuggets are made. “I wanted to know how they got the chicken in there. I learned that they mash the meat first then use breadcrumbs to cover it.” All year, students assisted one another, exchanged ideas, and practiced presentations in front of their peers, so they could learn about each other’s topics and interests, together. This cooperative setting fosters communication and teamwork, two abilities that are essential for success at any age.
Ms. Healy’s class held a Figure It Out Friday showcase, presenting their findings to El Monte City School District and Cortada School staff and families. Every student's area of study was on display at their station, turning the cafeteria into a mini-expo. Guests asked questions and listened to enthusiastic explanations as they made their way from station to station. Children communicated their newly acquired knowledge with pride on their faces. Cortada school principal Mr. Caston said, “Seeing kids have a conversation with strangers and their parents being comfortable with their vocabulary and language acquisition, this is a great way for them to practice.” Through this process, they developed their research abilities and gained self-assurance in their language acquisition.
Figure It Out Fridays gave students a chance to experience the joy of learning in addition to serving as an instructional tool. Pursuing subjects students are enthusiastic about allowed Ms. Healy to help them gain valuable skills and a sense of control over their education.