This Project Based Learning unit was developed by Kara Damico and myself. We participated in a year long professional development on Project Based Learning including business immersions called Summer STEM. This plan was developed based on our learning experiences during training and time at Plexus and The Frontier Building
Goals and Standards (21st century skills)
- Explain ways people change the environment.
- Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.
- Understand that the 2 digits of a 2 digit number represent amounts of tens and ones.
- Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion and provide some sense of closure.
- Critical Thinking/Problem Solving: Students design structures to address the problem statements after reviewing the data collected.
- Creativity: Student designs should have unique features that are not already represented in your recess spaces. These designs may draw on creative efforts they find in their research.
- Collaboration: Students work together to share ideas and receive feedback from peers throughout this project. Students may choose to work independently, in partners, or in small groups depending on the similarity of ideas to design and build their structures. Classes collaborate with business experts when available.
- Communication: Students work together to share ideas and receive feedback from peers throughout this project. Students will give a 30 second pitch explaining their structures to PTA members, playground safety inspectors, facility planner, or other community members with a connection to playground construction.
We began by having students draw their dream playground without any constraints. To get kids thinking out of the box, we played a slideshow of photos of some unique playground structures from around the United States.
After drawing, students did a gallery walk to see their friends’ ideas. We then created a chart to list similar ideas and unique ideas. We collected ideas on a Padlet.
After the hook, we went to observe our playground space and completed a padlet to list things we liked and didn’t like about our current recess spaces. We were able to decide upon 3 main recess spaces – hard top, playground, field. Students reflected on our spaces by listing likes and dislikes of our current set up and structures. We collected these on a Padlet.
We then needed data to see which areas of the playground were the most popular. We gave a bag of pompoms to every teacher in the school and set up big jars by the recess doors. Each jar was labeled with a recess area. Students placed their pompom in the jar for their favorite recess space. Students then analyzed the data from the jars. We discovered that the most popular spaces were the playground structures.
In order for students to find the problem, we interviewed our assistant principal and receptionist (who doubles as our nurse) about problems that occur during recess. They reported that we have frequent injuries and fighting incidents. Students were able to think about our popular spaces survey and connect that the overcrowding of the playground structures likely causes both injuries and incidents.
Students were then challenged to think about the ideal structures they drew and the recess problems we identified and create a solution. Students designed structures to add to our recess spaces such as zip lines, obstacle courses, sports fields, talk-it-out structures for problem solving, and more. Students then used makerspace materials to build prototypes of the structures they designed. Students collected feedback from each other and made improvements to their structures. Students researched materials they could use to build their structures on the Home Depot or Lowe’s websites. They used tens and ones to figure out an estimated cost. Students then wrote a pitch for their structure including it’s purpose and safety features. We used this planning sheet:
We invited administration, PTA, a playground planner, and a playground safety inspector to our final event. Students presented their structures to the visitors and collected feedback. We were not able to acually select a structure to build (but that would have been really cool).
Mini lessons and how I knew students needed them
- Reading a bar graph for most and least.
- Prototyping and using simple materials.
- Giving feedback – In my class we use glows for positives and grows for improvements. We needed to talk about specific feedback and always giving a postitive first.
- Using feedback – After students collected feedback from friends, we talked about how to decided if it was right to make changes to structures based on the feedback given.
- Drawing ten sticks and ones to represent the cost of materials and counting it all up.
- Writing a convincing pitch.
Mini lessons I had in my back pocket but didn’t need
- Collaboration lessons and conversations – these are always great to have in your back pocket. We do a lot of collaborative activities in my classroom so my students didn’t need any of these this time.