TAP Poster Celebration Day!
Posters flooded in this morning and kids stacked them by period then each period put up their posters on the counters around the room.
Around the room, they shared what their issue was, what action they took and what measure of success they had – $ and/or number of letters written, signatures gathered, bags of trash collected, hours spent volunteering, native plants planted. Some shared what their money donation represented ex. 4 bed nets for $40, a year’s worth of food for an HIV patient in Africa for $100, 1/10th of a baby panda incubator for $400, or a goat for a family through Heifer Project. I recorded the info in an Excel spreadsheet for the grand total to be revealed in a hushed moment of expectation right at the end of class.
Key is to keep each sharing short and praise how ever much they raised, effort spent etc. Remember how long an hour used to be at 12 years old? Waiting for customers, gathering signatures etc.? So the 4 hour minimum requirement we had seems reasonable in that light.
We sat around the coffee table and I listened to how they felt about the project. So fun to hear what they had to say, and sometimes incredibly sweet.
The vast majority said they loved the project (‘A’ for you…). Doing something they chose that was fun, to help do something about an issue they really care about. That was the main comment from all classes. Pretty much exactly what I intended. I think I’ll allow 5 seconds to feel good about that. OK. Done 🙂
Many also mentioned number of adults who were so happy they were doing something for the greater good and generous folks who gave unexpectedly large donations. Other things mentioned more than a few times included: learning about world problems and how they were all connected. How they felt inspired to do more good things. That taking action for something useful was satisfying and fun.
Some mentioned that they felt good to find a community (ex. an NGO) of people who also cared about the same issue. That it was really cool to get a letter to the editor published, or a mention in an NGO newsletter. How it felt to see the creek with all the ivy removed and re-planted with native plants.
Learnings included more depth to their issue, how serious their issue is, how it relates to other issues. Project management, time management and how to work with someone else were all big. Having a plan B and a plan C. How lucky we are in Orinda. Most enjoyed working with a partner, even with the trade-offs mentioned above. Tee shirts are a great way to get people to ask you questions about your issue and raise awareness. Timing, permission and energy in promoting your product are important to raising money with sales. Websites often problematic.
Unexpectedly, kids shared how the project had changed their habits and outlooks. One pair who had worked on hunger said they wanted to feel what it was like to be hungry and did a 30 hour famine with their church youth group. They said it was painful. So sad to imagine children all over the world in pain from hunger.
Several said they eat more local products, more organic and throw away less, reuse more. And some said they were inspired to do more good things.
Hard stuff, fails (and what they learned)
PROCRASTINATION – the most frequently mentioned problem many grappled with, despite regular journal check-ins, reminders, poster gradings etc. In the end I guess we each have to learn this the hard way. Still working on it myself!
SCHEDULING, by far the hardest for the kids and their families. Sports, drama, dance, music lessons, away to Tahoe, Bar and Bat Mizvahs, parties, family get-togethers. I get to hear about a lot of this in their journals and it’s not like it’s a bad thing by and large. Most students are very happy in their busy lives. But it does mean they have to grapple with priorities and NOT being flakes for their partner. A pair of guys said the “motivated themselves to achieve greatness” and canceled everything else including one of their birthday parties to do their lemonade stand!
PARTNERSHIP ISSUES: alluded to tactfully in class, but something quietly coming up. The piggy-backer, the bossy one who doesn’t let the other contribute then complains about it. The parent who took over a project and bumped the partner out at the last minute (yes, actually happened.)
To deal with partnership issues we first front-load with discussion of what being a partner means, being careful in your choice and having parents sign off on the choice. Then we’ll ask how the partnership went on Tuesday in the private journals. Any issues arising then and we’ll talk to each individual, then meet with the pair together and ask them each what would be a fair way to partition the grade.
To our initial surprise, the student who has been a bit of a slacker, will voluntarily take a few points cut from their grade to preserve the friendship and be fair. It’s important to make this a learning experience, not punitive.
And often, it’s not as simple as it seems – a parent who has been ill and the child having to look after them instead of working on the project. Miscommunication about who does what by when. A dominant partner dissing the work of the other so they are completely un-motivated to do anything, and on and on. Just like in say, the world of work!
Strange/Bad stuff that happened:
Karen and another colleague overheard several kids talking about making up data and pictures for their project. Awfully sorry to hear this. I tend not to see it because I suppose I don’t want to 😦 Not sure how widespread it is. According to “Race to Nowhere” cheating is absolutely rampant at our high schools.
A girl got actually bitten by a dog as she went into a fenced yard to ask for donations door-to-door in her neighborhood! The safety aspect needs to be emphasized a bit more next year.
One pair got garbage thrown at them by a vagrant on a beach they were cleaning up. A couple of kids had dotty elderly people ask them strange questions.
An elderly man told kids raising money for Greenpeace that it was a dumb organization and a college student came to their defense and started shouting at the elderly man.
In other communities, the safety issue would be a much bigger concern, sad to say. We did discourage door-to-door solicitation and that was where the only serious incident occurred.
Phew, that’s it for now. All that’s left to do is grade all million of them in time for Open House!
Entry filed under: Assessment and grading, TAP Curriculum. Tags: assessment, co-operative learning, grading, group work, middle school science, middle school science project, OIS, project management, project-based learning, service learning, TAP.