September 4th was the 5th year Maharishi Middle School has held its “Defenestration Day” event. “Defenestration” is defined as “a throwing of a person or a thing out of a window.” Don’t be alarmed, though. Middle school teachers Richard Incorvia and Barbara Hays have excellent classroom management skills, and only well-protected gallon jugs of water flew from one of the school’s third-story windows.
“Our students will be dropping apparatuses out of our third floor window,” Mr. Incorvia said prior to the event, “in an attempt to save a gallon of water from smashing. Many schools do similar ‘egg drop’ projects, but we found eggs to be too easy to save, so we switched to much more difficult (and spectacular when they fail) gallons of water.” Designed as a problem-solving activity, what many of the students learned was that “well-protected” is a term with degrees of meaning. Some gallon jugs safely journeyed intact to the cement below the window; most landed with some degree of “splashdown.” Mr. Incorvia commented that this year there were “some pretty spectacular blow-outs.” This year five out of twenty gallon jugs (wrapped, parachuted, and shock-absorbed) successfully hit the cement and survived. According to the teachers, that’s pretty typical.
Mr. Incorvia described the project in the following manner: “This project serves as an introduction to the Project Based Learning we do in the middle school as it teaches our students drafting, feedback, and refinement. It also has an authentic assessment (either the bottle is saved or not).” The work skills learned during this project will be utilized and refined throughout the school year. Project-based learning seeks to apply the knowledge and skills students are learning in school to real-world applications, providing more meaning to learning and also strengthening the connection between what is learned in school to what is needed for success outside of school.
Two students who successfully “landed” their gallon jugs were 7th grader Shreyas Tata and 8th grader Bodhi Boucherle. Shreyas Tata felt the project successfully introduced him to project-based learning. “You are the scientist who tries to protect the gallon. You are the builder who builds something that protects the gallon. You have to upgrade and upgrade.” Bodhi Boucherle felt the activity really “launched” him into Maharishi School’s project-based curriculum. “Besides being the first project you do, it really shows you how much testing, drafting, and individual work is done in middle school.”
Many students from Maharishi School’s Lower and Upper schools gather in the school’s inner courtyard to watch and enjoy the event. Dropping heavy objects from a high window seems to be not only an educational experience for the middle schoolers but also a celebration and remembrance of good learning for the entire student body.