After completing the California Choice Project, my students moved to their next Problem-Based Learning unit, the Community Resource Project. Focusing on earthquakes, landslides, and other land changes, this science unit was introduced by the following problem statement:
“You work for the government of a city that has seen many changes to the land over the years. You have lived in this city your whole life. Many people have been moving to your city lately, and they have never seen these types of changes before. Understandably, they are nervous about living in such an unfamiliar environment. You will create a resource that teaches new residents about these different types of land changes. Your resource must include the definition and pictures of landslides, earthquakes, creep, chemical weathering, mechanical weathering, dunes, volcanoes, runoff, erosion, and deposition. Also, your resource must include some type of rating or description of how dangerous each of these things usually are.”
There are three major differences between this unit and the previous one. First, as I mentioned in last week's post, the kids had complete “choice of team.” Those who wanted to work alone were allowed to do so, while everyone else chose the members of their team. Many children decided to work with the same people as last time, and others formed brand new groups.
Second, whereas the kids were charged with creating a presentation in the California Choice Project, they were now being asked to make a resource. This change enabled the kids to engage in a different type of creative thinking and call upon different strengths and talents. Most groups chose to produce full-color books that we had printed and bound. A few groups, who saw some of their classmates create slide shows last time around, decided to go this route this time around. One ambitious pair, whose members have an interest in programming, decided to make a website.
Finally, the Community Resource Project was the first time we used the valuable information that we gained from Thrively.com, a free website for teachers and parents that’s designed to help children discover their interests and passions, personalize the learning process, and maximize their amazing potential. The process of using Thrively begins when the kids take an engaging, online strength assessment. After completing the strength profile, the children each receive a detailed write-up that’s 100% positive and motivating. As a teacher who’s dedicated to developing the whole child, I appreciate Thrively’s inclusion of not only academic strengths and interests, but also social skills, personality traits, and critical “real-life” attitudes and aptitudes.
Though the strength profiles are created for individual students, I discovered two ways to use this information to help the kids work more effectively in their groups. I will share these strategies as this blog series rolls on.
(Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to let you know that I have begun collaborating with Thrively.com and its founder in recent months because of our mutual interest in teaching the whole child.)