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A classroom for critical thinking students

C.W. Sawyer sixth-grade teacher encourages students to research different paths of information to come up with correct answers just like a detective
  • C.W. Sawyer sixth grade teacher Joelynn Stubbs has decorated her classroom with references to detective work to encourage her 32 students to be critical thinkers in their approach to education this year. PHOTOS: TORRELL GLINTON

  • Caution tape on a wall inside Joelynn Stubbs’ sixth-grade class at C.W. Sawyer Primary School. The classroom has been decorated with references to detective work.

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Sep 04, 2013

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When Joelynn Stubbs’ students walked into her sixth grade class on the first day of the new academic school year they were shocked by what they witnessed — crime scene caution tapes were affixed to the walls, as well as handcuffs, and finger prints, footprints, magnifying glasses were everywhere — along with the names of organizations that investigate crimes like the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; and some of the top crime shows on television — NCIS and CSI. The décor in the room at C.W. Sawyer Primary School was all about detecting and solving problems.

Forget the themes that encourage children to shoot for the moon and stars, Stubbs wanted to do something different this school year, something out of the norm. That out-of-the-box thinking gave her the idea to encourage her students to think critically to come up with solutions. She decided to refer to her classroom as a detective classroom.

“I wanted to get my children to think more on their own and to be more independent in their working. One day I was sitting down thinking about how I would get them to be critical thinkers and how I could do this and detectives came to mind. And then I thought about how I would bring that detective theme to life in the classroom.”

The end result was a shock that impressed the 32 students that entered her class as well as Stubbs’ colleagues who she said were fascinated and commented that they had never thought of a theme like that before. The detective-themed classroom produced a “wow” factor for most of the first day as people stepped into the classroom.

“I wanted my students to be well versed in critical thinking,” said Stubbs. “Detectives have to gather facts and information in order to solve crimes, so that’s the route I decided to take.”

The detective theme is one that Stubbs will take across the board from the classroom décor to the children’s lessons. This year, subject areas in Stubbs’ class won’t be referred to as Math, Science or Social Studies, but rather as cases.

“In order for my students to get good grades in their cases, they will have to research different paths of information in order to get their work correct, so that’s the detective aspect of it,” said the teacher. “Detectives have to gather facts and information in order to solve crimes, so that’s the route I decided to take.”

Even though the subjects will be called cases, Stubbs said the students have to still do the work. And that the theme is just to inspire them to go out, do more research and more independent work on their own.

“I want them to go out and research various subject areas or topics that I’m teaching and bring information back to the classroom and share about the information they found out about a particular topic, and then try to put the pieces of the puzzle together to solve it,” she said.

Stubbs hopes that through seeing the symbols of detection daily, that her students will be encouraged to become critical thinkers.

And while the décor is about encouraging students to be critical thinkers, the teacher said that in a sense it could also speak to the students about remaining on the right side of the law, considering the level of crime in the country today.

Stubbs who has been teaching for nine years has tried to be creative in her classroom décor over the years. Last year her theme focused on things up in the air as she encouraged her students to soar high. In a previous year she decorated her classroom in a jungle theme. Another year it was all about space. This is the first year she’s gone so far out of the box.

“I want them to be able to think on their own. I don’t want to have to spoon-feed them whereas I come and bring all of the information to the lesson. I want them to be able to open up and share answers as well when they do their researches, and just to be able to think more critically because a lot of our students don’t think critically,” she said.

As her approach to classroom décor catches eyes and leaves people floored, Stubbs said she expects her students to do the best that they can.



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