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School Pioneers ‘Critical Thinking Night’ With Hands-on Learning

With animal riddles, geometric shapes, and other activities, a Germantown elementary school is pioneering a unique way to involve the community in getting a taste of what a modern classroom is like.

Lake Seneca Elementary School, on Wanegarden Drive, opened its doors last Wednesday evening for its second annual Critical Thinking Night.

Although the critical thinking fair is specific to Lake Seneca, the thought behind it is not. It’s driven by Montgomery County Public Schools curriculum in which “kids are asked to think outside the box, and to think critically, and to apply” what they learn “to solve everyday problems,” explained Jessica Dancer, a Lake Seneca teacher and one of the organizers of Critical Thinking Night at the school.

“However, the critical thinking fair is unique to us, as we display this in a way that’s hands-on for parents,” she said.

In previous years, the community “wasn’t feeling involved” when the school would hold its math and reading nights, Dancer said.

“So we said, ‘What’s another way to bring the community in and really showcase the great work our students are doing?’ Our staff development teacher last year thought about calling it Critical Thinking Night and doing hands-on,” she said. “Instead of like a museum, it would be much more hands on. So it came from her last year, and we continued it this year.”

Examples of activities at this year’s Critical Thinking Night included, in one classroom, “Design to specs,” in which participants created something based on a given set of criteria. In a kindergarten classroom, participants built things out of geometric shapes, which teaches concepts of shapes and geometry.

The activities which were offered at Critical Thinking Night “are activities that kids actually get in their classrooms while learning a common subject,” Dancer said.


Top: Maryam Yahdadt (far right), Ehson Ketabchi and their children kindergartener Sarah and first grader Yahya and teacher Nicole Ebrahimi.

Next: Kindergarten teacher Sarah Witmer helps participants with the activity in her room on Critical Thinking Night.

Photos by Cecily Nance

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