Goals, Implementation & Issues With Our 20% Project

Today we completed our second of five days slated to implement a grade-level 20% project with 7th graders (about 270 students). For this project social studies, math, and ELA teachers collaborated to make this happen. I'm not going to lie, a project of this magnitude requires educators that are willing to take risks to do whatever it takes to make things happen for their students. As we met to plan for this project, we knew if we were to be successful, we needed to have some clear-cut goals.

Our 20% Project Goals:

  1. To create a learning opportunity that was student-driven.
  2. To create an environment that fostered inquiry and exploration...focus on the process, not the end product
  3. To expose students to a project-based learning opportunity with an authentic target audience, not their teacher
  4. To disrupt the learning environment to facilitate optimal success; to literally re-imagine what that learning environment could look like!

Yes, accomplishing our goals meant disrupting student schedules...in a very controlled and organized way. Once we worked out the "taking attendance" issue, our solution to accomplish this feat worked really well.

Our 20% Project Schedule:

  1. We paired up six participating teachers and created three "Home Bases" with two teachers at each home base: One group in the two side-by-side computer labs, another group is in the library, and a third group in one of the science labs.
  2. Students selected a home base of their choosing.
  3. Students followed their normal schedule (electives and science were not participating). During Social Studies, Math, and ELA, they reported to homebase, signed in, and got to work...three hours of their day dedicated to work on their project...so far, so good!  

It's been amazing walking around, helping students with a wide variety of topics and experiencing their enthusiasm. I had no idea just how creative this group was and our hope is, they will discover just how creative they are as well! Oh and that learning can be fun. While there is no denying a handful of students are probably taking advantage of the situation and not maximizing this opportunity, the vast majority are, and I for one am glad to see we are not holding those students back for the poor choices of a few! And  interestingly, we had significantly fewer students absent today than normal...especially for this time of the year...hmmm, something must be different!
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