Last week I mentioned how I like to use the end of each school year to try new things and test out ideas that I might want to incorporate into my practice the following year. Whether these ideas relate to curriculum, instruction, the physical classroom environment, or management, the potential benefits of this approach are significant, and there's really no down side if the ideas prove not to bear fruit.
Sometimes, experimenting with a new idea involves stepping out of our comfort zone. This was definitely the case this past Monday and Tuesday when my students constructed the 3D models of their dream houses. In the days leading up to the construction, I don't think a school project had ever been on my mind as much as this one. I felt a combination of excitement, uncertainty, enthusiasm, and stress.
I knew the kids were incredibly motivated to start turning their 2D blueprints into 3D structures, yet a bunch of questions flooded my mind. Did I purchase enough foam core boards, flooring and wallpaper sheets, T-square rulers, and glue? Would the 3 hours each day that I allotted for the construction be enough? Would enough parent volunteers be able to join us to provide the students with the help they needed, especially with using the exacto knives to cut the walls for the kids? Had I bitten off a bit too much by trying to adapt a middle school project for a 4th grade class?
Monday and Tuesday turned out to be two of the most interesting, exciting, draining, and satisfying days of my career. The project was, without a doubt, incredibly labor-intensive, and we were fortunate to have a large parent turnout to make the event a big success. We needed to go into overtime on Tuesday and finish after lunch, but every child completed a terrific dream house and felt great about what (s)he accomplished. The pride that showed in the kids' faces made all the uncertainty and stress leading up to the construction completely worth it. The children now have a durable model that they can keep for years. Perhaps a seed was planted with some of them, and they may grow up to pursue an interest in architecture or design. Even if that doesn't happen, I take heart in the fact that every student had the opportunity to apply a wide range of geometry knowledge in an engaging, authentic project that they will remember for a long time.
You can see more photos of student projects on my "Teaching the Whole Child" Facebook page.