I'm going to take a different approach to blogging through this project, doing some updates in parallel to the project. Today we started off with a whisper. What does that mean? It means I scared the kids pretty good, and all you could hear was a whisper!
The Summer PBL Camp from Edutopia focused on the Gulf oil spill, and trying to incorporate that into PBL. My inclination was about the effect on the water, and our numerous other world challenges with water. Most recently in north Georgia we suffered through a reservoir that was 20 feet below full, and the memories are still fresh. I decided to tie this into some "terrorist threat" since everyone sadly connects with that, and told my students that Lake Lanier, our main water supply, had possibly been poisoned.
First, an Asst. Principal called me out "urgently". When I returned, I made up a story that two trucks had simultaneously gone into the water with tanks on them, and there were "slicks" showing that were unusual. "Do not use water at all, we don't know the situation." We did some Q&A, and lingered with silence too. I let them freak out a little, let's call it "repercussion brainstorming", and then let them in on the show.
For this project (see the Assignments page, then Project 5, or click here), students are working in pairs, triples or solo. Some are working solo because they need to learn delivery skills. Most are working in pairs, but we have a couple working in triples because my gut told me to set it up that way. It's also been a great way to help some kids separate from their friends, and work with new partners who are at their level.
The first day was pretty cool! The task for today and tomorrow is brainstorming, creating a "big picture plan", and a list of tasks for each person. They should also establish a Google Site and invite me and my partner teacher as "owners" of the site. When they invite us, they put "Project 5" in the email message, making it easy to sort these site links in my Google Apps email. We want to be "owners" in order to see whatever revision history we want (like when they do all of their daily reflections on the last day).
I've had a challenge working with 9th graders (all of them are 9th), as I've been working with mostly 11th and 12th grade Computer Science kids over the last few years. In addition, we have COGAT scores that range by over 40 points in one room of 30 kids, all races, 33% girls, all SES levels, so there is a variety here for any data delight!
In short, a great start. I'm excited to finally try this project, but I'm glad I waited until we had more systems in place for sharing, expectations, rewards and incentives (headphones and iPods allowed!). While it's not yet nirvana with all kids working in perfect harmony, we're doing pretty well for Week #7 of the school year, Week #7 of overall high school for 9th graders.
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