A Community Planning PBL

I designed this PBL after a middle of the night idea. It took me just a few hours on a Saturday to sit down and get the bones of the project laid out. I like to use the Project Design Template from the Buck Institute for Education. I modified it a little to make it work better for me. This blog post will be the narrative version of the plan I wrote including my reflections. Some of what I planned, didn’t happen and some things we did, were not on the plan. I like to take the lead from my students during a project like this which changes the plan sometimes!

In this PBL, students will design a community that meets the wants and needs of the people who live there. Students will consider the producers and goods and services needed to meet the needs and wants of the consumers. Students will create a blueprint and build a model of their community.

Driving Question

How can you as a community planning committee ensure that the needs and wants of your citizens are met through the goods and services you will provide?

Goals and Standards

Common Core Reading

  • RI1.3 Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
  • RI1.5 Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, table of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts of information in a text.
  • RI1.9 Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

North Carolina Social Studies Standards

  • E.1 Understand basic economic concepts.
    • E.1.1 Summarize the various ways in which people earn and use the money for goods and services.
    • E.1.2 Identify examples of goods and services in the home, school, and community.
    • E.1.3 Explain how supply and demand affect the choices families and communities make.
  • G.1 Use geographic representations, terms, and technologies to process information from a spatial perspective.
    • G.1.1 Use geographic tools to identify characteristics of various landforms and bodies of water.
    • G.1.2 Give examples showing the location of places (home, classroom, school, and community).
    • G.1.3 Understand the basic elements of geographic representations using maps (cardinal directions and map symbols).

21 Century Skills

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving – Designing a community with spatial constraints that fits the needs of the people who live there
  • Collaboration – Students will work on teams of 4-5 students to design their community. Each student will have a role.

Hook

For this project, I had students read 3 different books on communities and community helpers from Reading A-Z. We discussed the similarities and differences in the books and added our wonders to the wonder wall.

Student process

After reading and comparing the texts, I split students into groups of 4-5. I revealed the roles for this project:

  • Commissioner- makes decisions on behalf of the community
  • Architect- creates the plan and sees that plan is followed
  • Engineer- Checks for structure safety
  • Economic Development Specialists – Makes sure there is a balance of goods/services and producers/consumers

I knew these terms would be beyond their understanding, so I created a slide deck to explain each one in child friendly language.

Students then had conversations within their groups to select their roles. Groups with 5 students, decided which role they thought deserved 2 people. We have selected roles in my classroom before so students are familiar with the process. Basically, they go around the group and say which role they would like and why. If no one else selects that role, it’s theirs. If more than one student selects the same role (and they can’t both do it) they use one of our protocols to make a decision (rock paper scissors, bubble gum bubble gum, pick a number, group vote, etc.).

Their first collaborative task was to create a list of needs and wants of citizens in a community. Then using those lists, students made a second list of the goods and services that could provide each need and want. The commissioner needed to make sure they could meet all the needs of their citizens.

On chart paper, architects made a map to plan out their community. The engineer needed to make sure the roads were clear for the safety of their citizens. Then they labeled the stores on the map. The economic development specialist made sure that there were goods and services to support the citizens. The commissioner made sure that citizen needs were met before their wants. The planning process took us about 3 days.

The building process took us a while. Students used cardboard and construction paper to build their communities. They needed signs for each structure. The architect was to ensure the build followed the plan they drew on the map. The engineer needed to make ensure the buildings were sturdy and the roads were clear.

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Students shared their projects with the other groups in the classroom and with parents who came in for a genius hour writing celebration.

Mini lessons and how I knew students needed them

Needs and Wants – Even though this is taught in kindergarten, we had conversations that broadened their understanding. First, whole-group we completed a needs and wants sort. Then discussed additional things the people need in their community like doctors, police officers, housing options, etc.

Goods and Services – We completed a sort of goods and services using a smartboard file I have. Then we talked about the businesses they have selected to put in their communities and whether they provided goods or services or both.

Bird’s Eye View – When I asked my students to draw a map of their community, they began drawing a skyline view of it. I had to stop their work right away and talk about drawing from a bird’s eye view. I used google maps to show our community and how the bird’s eye view is different from the street view.

Building Shapes – Students really struggled with cutting down cardboard or using construction paper to build their buildings. Fortunately, we were covering 3D shapes in math and I was able to show them how to construct cubes and rectangular prisms to construct their buildings and tie it to our geometry standards! When sharing their community,  one student said, “we built it this way after Mrs. Diorio showed us how to build 3D shapes with paper.”

Community Helpers – Students did not initially include police stations, fire stations, doctor’s offices/hospitals, etc. in their plans. We talked about the different community helpers that citizens might need for their safety within the community.

Trash and Recycling – Right as we were finishing our build, it was Earth Day. This was the perfect opportunity to talk about how they would plan to keep their community free of pollution. Students added trash cans and recycling centers in their communities.

Mini lessons I had in my back pocket but didn’t need

Zoning – I totally skipped this entire part of the project I designed.

Naming a Business – Students chose to use the names of businesses they knew from in our community or they agreed quickly on other names.

Safety of structures – Engineers seemed to already know that the buildings in their communities shouldn’t wobble when touched and made sure they were secured to the ground.

OOPS!

I planned to focus more on taking anecdotal notes and using a rubric to help me grade students’ communities, but I got so involved in our building process, I completely forgot to carry around my clipboard! I will tell you that every student in my class understood the goals of the project and could explain them to others. I’ll do better next time!

Things I’ll do differently next time

Notes and Rubric – I plan to be more intentional with PBL in taking anecdotal notes and using a rubric to keep track of what and how my students are doing during the process.

Writing – This project would have been the perfect chance for students to write an all about book on communities. They also could have written opinion/persuasive pieces about the stores they wanted in their communities or to attract citizens to live in their community.

Zones – I initially designed this project to talk about how communities are zoned into housing areas and shopping areas. However, I never ended up doing anything with that. The next time I do this project, I will be sure to talk more about zoning.

History – We didn’t really touch on the change over time standard during this project. Next time, one student will have the role of town historian and will need to take pictures throughout the process so students can mark how their community has changed over the time they spent building it.

Self Reflections – I planned for students to fill out self-reflections during the process so they can see their own impact on the bigger project, but ran out of time every day to do this. Next time, I will have reflection days for students to think about what they are doing and how they are impacting the community.

 

I would love your feedback on this project. Please leave comments below!

#PBLclouds – the reflection

STOP! This is a reflection post! If you haven’t read the story about what happened during #PBLclouds. Click here to read it now!


My favorite thing about doing a PBL with my weather unit is that my students took ownership over their learning and I only needed to provide them with the time and space to discover. Since this was my first PBL, there are definitely some things that went well and things that totally tanked!


BIE was a great starting point for me. It provided a great outline for my PBL. From there I tweaked some things because their unit was for a first grade class and I’m working with kinders. What I found the most interesting about planning with the BIE resource was a lot of the things I had done in this unit before were in the PBL plan! They were just done a little differently.

I’ve always read Little Cloud by Eric Carle and done a painting activity. The difference was I did it at the end as a culminating art connection. This time I did it as an introduction and launch! The other difference is that before I did the painting ink blot style. Where you dab some paint in the middle of the page and then fold it in half and open it to see what it looks like. This time I let my kinders paint the cloud in the shape they wanted. This changed the perspective. Instead of looking at something that was nothing, my kinders were able to intentionally paint a cloud in the shape they wanted it allowing them to connect to past experiences of seeing clouds.

I’ve also always done the cotton ball clouds activity with my kinders. The difference again is that I used to do it at the end of the unit as a calumniating activity. This time we did it in the middle. I used to have to direct the class in how to manipulate the cotton balls to make them in the shapes of different clouds, this time they worked collaboratively and helped each other problem solve to model different types of clouds. My kinders took what they learned from watching cloud videos and we’re able to stretch and pull the cotton balls apart to make the cloud models. They made models of 6 different types of clouds where in the past I was pulling my hair out to get 4 types!


Both of the above activities were improved through the PBL approach. Allowing children to be intentional and connect their learning to their experiences allows them to see the connection. It was hard, but letting go of the reigns for the cotton ball cloud models and allowing my kinders to problem solve and communicate made it a huge success.

My favorite task I designed for this PBL is the YouTubeKids mission. My kinders have been trying to watch videos on YouTube all year. They know they aren’t supposed to because the content can be inappropriate for school but they do it anyway. They got on in the computer lab, they got on in the classroom on computers and iPads. Rather than fight with them about using it for entertainment, I decided to teach them how to use it for research and and a source of information. Because of content, I decided to use YouTubeKids with them. It blocks much of the inappropriate content. Molly Harnden came to help as extra adult hands with my 6 groups. We talked about what would make a good teaching video and what would be just for fun. We talked about what words to use for a good search. And then they were off. The room was a buzz and it was AHHH_MAAAAZIIIING!!! This went so well that I no longer ban the use of YouTubeKids with my kinders. They know how to use it to find information and are not just watching mindcraft videos!


I was thrilled to get this feedback from a parent after all the hard work we put into learning about the types of clouds and the weather associated with them:

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Isn’t that kind of connection to real life and retention of information what all teachers dream about?

 

At the start of the PBL we took a pre-assessment so my kinders could rank their current knowledge of clouds and weather.

The plan was to do it again at the end and let them compare the 2. We’ll we got into this and busy with that. Before I knew it, it was time to track out! I never did a post assessment! Next PBL I’ll be more careful about wrapping up BEFORE track out! This kind of reflection would have been amazing to observe as my kinders realized how much they learned through discovery.

 

I was really proud of my kinders’ use of the Do Ink Green Screen app to create their weather report videos. But it could have been SOOOO much better! We outlined what meteorologists say, show, and do in their reporting. They discussed with their group what they wanted to say. I SHOULD HAVE had them write down their lines and practiced. We SHOULD HAVE done a few takes of the video and viewed and provided feedback with the whole group prior to publishing. I know I SHOULD HAVE done these things because I got everything from this

​to this:

​Another lesson learned: TV meteorologists are SUPER busy! I didn’t have any luck getting a local news meteorologist to come as an expert visitor. I’m SUPER grateful for a parent contact with the self-employed meteorologist that did come as our expert visitor. I learned something from him! Did you know that meteorologists are important for golf tournaments? Me neither! I also didn’t realize they had specialties like his – predicting lightening. Pretty cool!

Questions or comments about our PBL? comment below!

 

#PBLclouds – the story

In January I participated in a twitter chat #hackingPBL and was so inspired I bought the book Hacking Project Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy. I had learned about Project Based Learning (PBL) in college at SUNY Frediona from Dr. Mira Berkley. I already knew PBL is good for kids. If you don’t know what PBL is read this. I’m not going to get into that now. I want to tell the story of the first time I tried a PBL in my kindergarten class. I reached out to Erin on twitter for a little idea bouncing because she has experience with the logistics of PBLs with kinders. She was very supportive! Fast forward to February. I am a member of the Wake County Teacher Leader Corps (#wakeTLC). We meet 5 times a year to improve our own instruction as well as support other educators in our schools. This year’s focus is a self guided group project. I knew back in November at Fall Convergence #WonderWake I wanted to get into trying PBL in my room. So I joined a group working on PBL. At #wakeTLC in February we listened to Erin Gannnon talk about PBL and she introduced me to a resource bie.org. I began searching right away for ideas to get me going on my first PBL. I found one on weather and clouds. A perfect fit for the weather unit I had just begun. So it was time to change gears! It took me about 2 weeks to wrap my brain around it and plan for it. I decided to photo/video document my learning process and my kinders’ learning process on twitter using #PBLclouds.

Day 1: I launched the PBL reading Eric Carle’s Little Cloud and then let my kinders paint a cloud. I of course forgot to take photos on our first day!

Day 2: After launching, I needed to teach my kinders how to collaborate. We created an anchor chart together.

Day 3: Next, we took a pre-assessment of what they already know about clouds and weather.


Day 4: I strategically grouped my students taking into consideration kinders who bring devices from home and tried to balance my talkers and my thinkers. Their first task as a group was to decide on their roles.

Day 5: I invited our school technology facilitator, Molly Harnden, to come collaborate with me because I was about to give my kinders a mission I had never tried before. I asked my collaborative groups to work together to find a video that teaches about the different types of clouds. The task included using YouTubeKids to find 4 different videos about the types of clouds and deciding together which one was the best. This was a very involved task and required my kinders to be critical of the information they found as well as reaching a group decision. Each member of the groups had a role and each role had a specific task for this mission. Leader – listened to each member’s opinion of the best video and decided which video got the most votes. Recorder –  wrote down the title of the video they chose. Digital leader – worked the iPad to show videos. I chose this mission because my kinders were using YouTube already for entertainment. So I taught them to use a safer version – YouTubeKids and how to use it in an effective way for learning.


Day 6-8: Each group shared the video they chose and why they picked it with the whole group using Reflector 2. This took 2 days longer than I anticipated. I had to learn to be flexible!

Day 9-14: We went outside to observe the clouds. Each group kept track of the clouds they saw using a graph. There were protocols for each role during observations. Leader – listened as every shared and decided what the recorder would record based on what they heard. Recorder – recorded on the graph.  Noise Monitor – used a pointing protocol to make sure that the group members were taking turns to talk.

Day 9-10: The groups built models of the cloud types we learned about with cotton balls. I had done this activity for the last 4 years but this year was different! In the past, it was very teacher directed and I had to tell them what to do with the cotton balls to make each type of cloud. This year, they worked with their groups and didn’t need my help at all! They were even able to model 6 types of clouds where in the past we only did 4. The groups even came up with a way to color the clouds black for the storm clouds!

Day 12: This is where karma was on my side! We scheduled a Science Fun for Everyone field trip at the beginning of the year. The theme was meteorology! I was so proud of my kinders being able to answer the scientist’s questions and make connections to what we were doing.


Day 13: We watched a few videos of TV meteorologists and made notes of what we noticed. We watched each video 3 times. The first time was just to watch. The second time I asked my kinders to think about what they saw in the video. The third time I asked them to pay close attention to what they heard the meteorologist say. We made a list.

Day 14: We went over the list we made the day before then the groups decided on what they were going to say in their video and who was going to say it. Each group took a video using a green screen for their weather forecast. Molly was a big help teaching my class to take videos!

 

Day 15: Groups used Kiddle (another great resource brought to us by Molly!) to search for images to use behind their Green Screen video. Molly and I taught the groups how to use the DoInk Green Screen App to create their video and the groups shared their finished products. We critiqued each video using the list we made on day 13.

Day 16: I was able to get a local, self employed meteorologist to come talk to all 100 kindergarteners at #WeAreBrierCreek! Big thanks to Josh Nagelberg for coming out to talk to such a big group of kids! They loved seeing the connection between what they are learning and a real life meteorologist!

Stay tuned for future posts on this PBL. My plan is to write one as a reflection of how #PBLclouds went, another as a reflection of lessons learned from #PBLclouds and Hacking Project Based Learning, and another with my next steps and where I’m going in my PBL journey!

Questions or comments on #PBLclouds? Post below! Thanks!