The #HMW Questions

Plant An Idea

It all started innocently enough. I said to my 7th grade math class:

Please don’t crumple your papers when you put them in the recycling bucket. More can fit if you leave them flat.

Several of these students had participated in the Towers of Power challenge and had learned the properties of paper compression.

Later in the day, several of these same students returned to my room for Flex–which our version of the end-of-the-day-catch-up-time. One student piped up as soon as the tardy bell rang:

Mrs. Menardi! Why don’t other teachers recycle paper in their classrooms???

I didn’t even have a chance to pass all the way through the dumb-founded emoji on my face before another student jumped in:

Yea Mrs. Menardi! Why doesn’t anyone at our school recycle paper at all??? We throw away a ton of it!

Recycle MindMap 2In a flash, questions were flying back and forth between these 15 newbie environmental advocates about why our school–and even more, why our city–doesn’t work harder to recycle things that can be recycled. [Everyone knows we should, but we don’t… sad to say.]

When they finally let me speak, the best answer I could give them in the moment was: I dunno.

Watch It Grow

I had already introduced the #HMW [How Might We] Questions earlier in the year in some other projects. And these students are highly adept at MindMaps which I taught them last year. I simply said: Let’s ask the questions and look for some ideas.

One girl immediately went to the whiteboard and wrote the MindMap focusing question:

HMW start a recycling program at our school?

If there is ever a sweet-spot-moment in teaching, this was it. I sat down at my desk and just smiled as I watched them go to work. They knew what to do. Markers in hand, thirty minutes of fast-talking and furious-writing was all they needed to draft a plan.

I gave them a few pointers. I interjected some questions to consider. I guided them through a sequence of logical What-Next thoughts. But they were running the ball down field and I was cheering from the sidelines.

Recycle MindMap 1They have a meeting scheduled with the principal to propose a plan. They will seek donations from local business owners. They are crafting their personal stories to convince teachers and students to begin recycling. They are creating a petition to gather signatures to approve the project.

These kids are on fire.
They are on a mission to change the world.

I am totally stoked to see where this goes.
I love that it all started with a simple #HMW Question and a whiteboard.

#DesignThinking rules!