Something very unusual happened this week. I realized that a project I am required to do for a graduate class is actually going to be something I would like to do in my classroom. I know-- I was surprised too. The assignment is to design a project with my class that will help them affect the world in some way. We brainstormed and shared ideas. I discovered using the "Get One, Give One" graphic organizer. This really helped the students get their ideas organized, and it provided me with artifacts to include with the project.
I was blown away with the response from my students. Sometimes I forget how idealistic kids this age are. We had responses such as "save the endangered animals in Alabama" and "get a new President" and "internet safety for kids" to "not let boys have that thing done to change into girls and the other way around."
Just making sure you're listening. And yes, one kid did actually say that.
We voted, and the majority want to do something about childhood obesity. I was pretty impressed with my little friends, because this is a big problem, and it is potentially a problem that we can help do something about. Our next step is to research and figure out how we can best present our findings to our audience. We have brainstormed ideas and we're going to vote tomorrow. Our options include a workout video for kids, a commercial, a rap song, a brochure, a before and after situation (a' la Nutri System or Weight Watchers), and a monument in the shape of a banana. Hopefully one of the former choices will win out. I have also been doing some research on my own about Project-Based Learning (Edutopia has a great article about it here).
My issue now is how to fit this type of project into the curriculum. Yes, students will need to use research skills. Yes, they will also be doing some expository writing. Yes, we will also hit some health/science standards along the way. Earlier, I was about to pull my hair out thinking about how I was going to make time to fit this project in.
Then it dawned on me. I control what happens in my classroom. Yes, I have to teach the curriculum and I have to prepare students for testing in the spring. Yes, I have to roughly stay on track with what my colleagues are doing. BUT, I control what happens. It's kind of empowering to say that.
There is one drawback to admitting this, however. I can't go around blaming other people anymore for the stress and pressure I feel. I decide how things are going to go, good or bad. And I think I'm okay with that.