4C’s Conference Part 2: Two Projects that are Scary, Exciting, and Could Completely Change my Class Culture!

In yesterday’s post, I listed out my biggest takeaways from the 4C’s conference I attended this past week.  In short, I went in looking for ways to use our 1:1 Chromebooks to create powerful learning for my students.  While I did get that, I was inspired to do so much more.  This school year, I want to take risks, do more project based learning (PBL), offer more choice and encourage curiosity, and create more authentic learning for my students.  Here are the two projects that I have a clearer picture of now that I have spent two days listening to awesome speakers and then discussing with the other math teachers at my school.

I am intentionally posting these as unfinished projects, because I expect these ideas to get better and better over the summer as we collaborate and think through potential challenges.  This is just a first draft.

Project #1:  Beginning of Year Research Project

This is a mash-up of two ideas.  I wanted to get our math department culture established for the year by combining our math classes in the auditorium, and each of our math teachers introducing apps/norms that we would be using in all math classes this year.  Another math teacher wanted to get students excited and curious about our space theme.  So we decided we could do both at the same time!  Here’s what we’re thinking.

  • Let students work through a “choose your own path” Google Slides Hyperdoc, where the slides let them choose which topic to dive deeper into.  For example, the first decision students make could be The Universe vs. NASA History, and once they choose they have links to articles, videos, etc. that students could visit to learn more.  Then they make another choice, and another, and by the end they have 8 different “paths” they could have chosen.  I’ve created a graphic of possible paths.

Research Project HierarchyOutline (3)

  • At each level of choice, students would have a different benchmark assignment to complete.
    • After their 1st choice, they have to try to create their first sketchnote.
    • After their 2nd choice, they have to create a timeline of at least 10 important advancements, discoveries, and people.
    • After their last choice, students have to group up and choose a way to show everyone what you learned.  I have a list of ideas of what these could look like, or students could also propose their own ideas and get them teacher-approved.  They have to somehow incorporate their sketchnote or timeline into their presentation.

Research Project HierarchyOutline (2)

  • My main goals with this project are to encourage students to:
    • Be curious
    • Learn norms for collaboration
    • Try something new
    • Work with other grade levels
    • Familiarize with using Google Classroom, Google Slides, Youtube, and Google Forms for classwork.
    • Present their findings to others and take ownership of what they learned.

What a way to open the school year!  How can we make this even better?

Project #2:  NASA Mission

Ok so this one is more theoretical at this point, but I want students to create and execute a mock NASA Mission.  I want students to have different “jobs”:

  • Rocket Design Team – Design the rocket that will launch the mission
  • Lander Design Team – Design the lander that will land on the moon, Mars, or wherever the Mission Design Team decides to go.
  • Rover Design Team – Design and program the rover that will perform specific tasks on the desired planet/moon/asteroid.  We have several Sphero robots, and students can design rovers using K’nex or another building material that can navigate the surface of the given planet.  See these cool videos from Sphero below!
  • Orbital/Flight Calculations Team – Make any calculations necessary about velocities, orbital paths, fuel efficiency, etc.
  • Mission Design Team – Creates and presents the details of the mission to the other teams, decide how much to budget for each department, and help any teams that need extra help or fall behind during the project.  Students must apply for this position.

I am hoping students could choose jobs, and then mission teams could be formed across grade levels.  For example, let’s say I have a 3rd hour Algebra 1 class, another teacher has a geometry, and the last has an Algebra 2.  Each teacher could have a mission project in their room that has students from all three levels.

My ideas on how to go through the project:

  1. Have students choose/apply for a job.
  2. Mission Design has a few days to work on mission details, everyone else researches design elements and ideas, makes paper models, sketches, etc.

    Created on www.autodraw.com
  3. Mission Design proposes the details of the mission, other teams help refine the mission.  Mission Design decides how much of their “mission budget” they are going to spend in each department.  Budget goes towards materials they can buy in the class “store”
  4. Everyone gets to work on their elements, mission design team helps fill in and keeps the team on track.  Puts together reports on the design process and helps plan the “documentary” of the mission.
  5. Final tests of all elements, filmed for the documentary.  Any other elements of the documentary get filmed, such as interviews with the teams, voice overs, etc.
  6. Elements of each project are posted on a Google Site for parents to view, as well as documentary videos when ready.
  7. Best project videos are shown to the whole school in the auditorium.

Anyone have any experience with PBL that could improve these ideas?  Please share below!

I am nervous and excited to hopefully try these this year!  What risky ideas are you wanting to try next year?


Author: achilders

Hello, my name is Alison Childers, and the first thing you should know about me is I am a nerd. Like a really big nerd. If you keep that in mind, the rest of this description is just icing on the cake. I am a fifth year 9-12 math teacher in the small town of Carmi, Illinois. I teach Algebra 1 and Pre-Calculus, and spend most of my evenings trying to find new ways to keep students excited to be in math class. I am interested in finding activities/projects that push students' math knowledge, while also working on their collaboration, computer, and real-world problem solving skills. I also coach our math team and color guard. This year is a big year for us, as we are going 1:1 chromebooks. I am undaunted by integrating technology, but having them at our fingertips every hour of every day this year means I want to find ways to streamline workflow and use the technology to its fullest potential. The purpose of this blog will be to detail our journey into all of these exciting areas, and I can't wait to get started on all of it! Hopefully at the end of each school year, I will be the best version of myself so far!

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