If the old adage is true, and “You are what you eat” Wildwood 6th graders got literal this week – internalizing the Habits of Mind and Heart — by decorating and eating…cupcakes!
Searching for a memorable way to introduce Wildwood’s rubrics, Humanities teachers Becca Hedgepath and Alexis Lessans came up with a tasty way to convey the grading standards and expectations that accompany all projects at Wildwood’s middle and upper campus. They crafted a rubric guiding students through the requirements to decorate a cupcake to meet all standards in the 7 Habits of Mind and Heart— the lenses through which students are taught and assessed in middle and upper school.
Dropping in on one of Becca and Alexis’s classes to see the students engaged, I first encounter Alexis as she passes out the cupcake rubric. Her students are eyeing the clear plastic container on her desk, plain yellow cupcakes arranged neatly inside.
“Be patient,” Alexis says. “You’ll need the rubric to know what kind of decorations will meet the standards.” I read along on the rubric with the students. The standards in the Habit of Convention focus on the non-negotiables for this assignment: “cupcake has fully frosted top in the color of Rainbow Chip, has different colored stars crisscrossing the cupcake top, etc.” The point of this Habit, Alexis tells the students, is that there are essential expectations with every assignment—like writing complete sentences in an essay. Musts.
Other Habits balance convention with creativity—The Habit of Perspective states that the cupcake be “pleasing to the eye”—and responsibility—The Habit of Collaboration calls for students to willingly clean up all of their decorating materials.
Once students get familiar with the rubric, decorating begins. A student from each table group gets the necessary project materials: Rainbow Chip frosting, sugar sprinkles, jellybeans, plastic knives and, of course, the cupcakes.
The students spread frosting and add decorations—making sure to adhere to the rubric’s guidelines. They joyfully share tips on spreading techniques and jellybean placement, all with a view toward showing off (and enjoying) the final product.
Alexis comes around to assess the students’ work—almost all of which meets the rubric’s standards.
The sweet start for these Wildwood 6th graders includes some very real “icing”: now each is equipped with the knowledge needed for self-assessment as they take command of their learning moving into middle school and beyond.
~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning