Hello parents and families! Welcome to Portal Peak: a place where your child can stimulate his or her creative thinking in real-world contexts.
Portal Peak is designed to be used with students in grades 3 though 8. How is that possible you ask? Each challenge is carefully designed to provide a range of options for solving. While a 10 year old might approach a problem one way, a 12 year old might approach it in another. For example students in grades 3, 4, and 5 are not taught how to use formal proportions (with cross multiplying) but are taught how to reason proportionally using tables and charts. In a given problem either method can lead to a successful solution. When students view each other’s work, a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grader might see a new method that lies ahead in their learning, while a 6th, 7th, or 8th, grader might be reminded of what it is is they are really doing when they set up a proportion, when he or she views a younger student’s work. Everyone wins!
That being said, especially for our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade learners, adult support is encouraged! You can have so much fun tackling these challenges alongside your student. One word of advice though, let your student take the lead. For example, if a problem requires long division and your student does not know the standard algorithm, let them figure it out in their own way, do not just show them your method, because they just might surprise you with how they reason through the problem.
We here at Portal Peak are educators with some fundamental beliefs about learning:
- Learning should be fun, engaging, and creative – so much so that students become so enthralled with a task that they are internally motivated to continue with it and are proud of their efforts.
- Learning should serve a purpose – students need opportunities to see how the content and skills they have learned are applicable to the world they live in.
- True understanding is developed through a process of inquiry – students learn best when they ask questions and develop their own understandings through seeking answers.
- Learning requires perseverance – life is full of challenges and we know that the most successful people are those who learn never to give up.
- Learning is best in the company of others – people learn more when they are able to share their ideas and collaborate with others working towards the same goal.
These fundamental beliefs are born out of the reality of what lies ahead for your child. In fact one of our favorite quotes at Portal Peak comes from Scott McLeod and Karl Fisch’s viral video “Did You Know” which says, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist . . . using technologies that haven’t been invented . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” In order to best prepare children for their future, they need many opportunities to practice the skills that will be invaluable to them in solving whatever problem comes their way. But what are these skills? Put simply they are the 4C’s: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication, and Portal Peak is here to support each one.
Creativity– each portal presents students with a problem or challenge that can be solved in many different ways. There is not always one “right” answer, in fact their may be many, and learning to think creatively is the key to a successful solution.
Critical Thinking– Portal Peak addresses this skill in two ways. First, students have to think about possible methods for solutions, often integrating information from more than one source. They must evaluate these different possibilities, choose one, and then use it effectively. Second, by viewing the thinking of others, students must use critical thinking to make sense of these solutions, even if the method someone else used is entirely different from their own.
Collaboration– Portal Peak fosters collaboration amongst students, both face-to-face and computer-to-computer. Encourage your child to work on these challenges with a friends, sibling, cousin, etc.! And encourage them to look at the posts of others and comment.
Communication– one of the best features about Portal Peak is that students share their thinking to more people than just those in their class or those in their family. They are tasked with creating a “Reach the Peak,” which is the way in which they communicate how they went about finding a solution to the challenge. In fact, students will never be asked to share just an answer – we are all about process, not product.