For the first post in a series I’m calling Sunday Night Prep, I want to share one of my favorite activities to facilitate. In a project-based learning environment, students new to the setting have a common question: What is a project? The picture featured on the header of this blog came from Avalon School in Minneapolis, MN in 2010. I thought about that picture for quite some time. How does someone get to having project ideas divided by academic subjects? Further, how do you get students to see that most projects are interdisciplinary?
I have facilitated this lesson three times now. The third being this past week with 47 students in a 12 x 20 room. Ideally, this lesson would work best with 12 – 30 students. The notes are below, and the lesson is divided into three different phases. I think the ideal time for this lesson is 60 minutes, but could probably range from 45 – 75 minutes. The first phase is developing a passion sheet. Students spend 3 minutes brainstorming passions, and then take time to arrange their passions on a 12×18 sheet of construction paper. The sheets of paper are then taped on the wall.
Once this is complete, I like to empty out the room and talk to the students in the hallway. I tell the middle/high schoolers, “We’re entering stealth mode, it’s really important no one talks in this room.” I go on to tell the students about the power of silence. Students walk back into the room and then begin to comment on each other’s passion sheets. Typically, I lead the way by writing the first few comments on someone’s sticky notes. This phase goes on for 8 – 12 minutes, or until a student tells another one to, “Shut up!” If the silence is obviously broken, I then have students go into the next phase, which is responding to the comments left by peers on the sticky notes.
Once this is complete, I have another teacher write the work PROJECTS on a giant piece of butcher paper (preferably right next to the sheet of passions). That teacher writes out the different content areas. Students then have take their passions and transfer them from their passion sheets to the Project Wall. The Project Wall can then become a staple for the next few days/months for future project ideas to be added to. The finished artifact is a beautiful arrange of project ideas ranging from cloning to the history of indie rock, pancakes to 3D printing, roller coasters to 9/11. In the future, I’d love to try a variation of this with adult learners. Good luck turning passions into project ideas!