Dr. Gereboff's Head Notes
That’s a Project!
Last week, fourth graders arrived at school in their dress clothes. They quietly filed into the ulam gadol and sat themselves in their designated seats on the right side of the room. On the opposite side sat two judges – a social studies teacher from another independent school, and one of our middle school teachers. Between the two sides was a podium and microphone. On the left sat their parents. This was the fourth grade mission debate that seeks to answer the question, “Were the missions good or bad for California?”
The ensuing debate was the culmination of a month of research, writing and practice in the art of persuasive communications. Each fourth grader stood up and spoke with conviction, and with researched facts defending their side of the debate. There were opening comments, responses to the opposing side, and final arguments. The judges spent considerable time deliberating, and each of the past few years that this debate has taken place, the judges are challenged in determining the winner as both groups are so well prepared and so very articulate.
At this time of year, major projects from all of the classes at Wornick are completed and presented. Last week, fifth graders held their Artist Gallery Walk, which was the culmination of their research about artists and the factors that influenced their work. Soon seventh graders will celebrate the outcome of their Tzedakah projects and eighth graders will assemble their capstone language arts project.
These projects differ in so many ways from the projects of a generation ago, and from the projects at most schools even today. We derive our understanding of projects largely from the work of Ron Berger in The Ethic of Excellence. Our projects include the following:
- Students are exposed to exemplars of excellence.
- Students engaged in authentic, substantial research.
- The project is meaningful for the student – answering a question about which the student is curious.
- Student work goes through multiple drafts/iterations as they learn that excellence requires reworking until a standard of excellence is achieved.
- Students are trained in the art of critiquing and in receiving constructive feedback.
- Projects are assessed through a public performance assessment (i.e. the tzedakah project presentation; the fourth grade debate; the fifth grade artist gallery…).
As we move forward in introducing design thinking to our curriculum in a carefully considered way next year, we will be adding another component to project based learning. We will be asking children to solve real problems in some of their projects.
Choose groups to clone to: