By: Kathy Lohse 

How do projects foster change at Borton Elementary?

This question anchored our work with The Shooting Star Room, a second grade classroom. In the planning stages of this project Sheila Encinas, the Shooting Star Room teacher, and I discussed  how the students would explore this idea and what structures and support we needed to provide students.

A Snapshot of The Shooting Star Room
  • 23 students total
  • 10 Female / 13 Male
  • 9 students with Individual Education for speech and language needs, or academic needs or a combination of both.

In terms of classroom set-up, we divided the class into two groups, one that focused on project work and the other on specific skills. This grouping allowed both of us time to provide differentiated instruction.

First, I read the book “What Do You Do With An Idea?” by Kobi Yamada to the students. This book is about making an idea into a reality that changes the world. We wanted to take the message from this story and make it real. We asked ourselves:

How do we honor the ideas of our students?

We started by asking them. Using a template, students thought through what they might need to create a change and how the world would look after this change took place. 

In order to analyze the tasks necessary to create their change. The students created  behavior over time graphs (BOTG) about the level of difficulty of each task necessary to enact the change they wanted to see – their project. Following the graphs, the students wrote descriptions of how they would implement their ideas from start to finish and shared their ideas in small groups.

Evanee explaining her idea – a 100 heart sculpture that would become the class project.

One student, Evanee, shared something that struck all of us. Her idea was to create a 100 Heart Sculpture for Borton Magnet School to show the world how kind the school is. Evanee saw hearts as a symbol of kindness and her vision for the sculpture was clear. 

The Shooting Star room rallied behind Evanee’s idea. They began the planning process to bring the 100 heart sculpture to life by working together to ask clarifying questions. The students then  completed a project behavior over time graph and a collaborative project description that answered key questions like: How will we know we created change?

*To find out more about the next phase in The Shooting Stars process, stay tuned. This blog post the first in a series of six exploring Projects with Purpose, see the project overview here. 

About the Authors:

Kathy Lohse is the PBL Coordinator at Borton Magnet School. Sheila Encinas is the teacher in The Shooting Star room. Borton Magnet School, in Tucson, Arizona, prioritizes Project-Based Learning and Systems Thinking.

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