I enjoy teaching my students to work on fun projects in class. A project is considered as a special assignment which is different from regular/daily homework. I know some teachers out there like to assign projects for students to complete at home but I don’t! The fact is there is no shortage of enthusiastic parents who would help their child complete the project. Personally, it is great to see how involved those parents are in their child’s school work. However, as a teacher, it is very difficult to assess a child’s accomplishment if the project were done with help at home. When Johnny brings the beautiful castle he has built at home to school, does that castle truly reflect what Johnny can do on his own or how he has applied his knowledge and problem solving skills? I often tell my students, “If the project was done perfectly with help from your mom and dad, should I give your parents an A, or should I give you an A?”
How about those children who don’t get sufficient parent support at home? We have plenty of parents who work so hard all day, sometimes with two jobs, just to support the family. I know for a fact that it is very difficult for these parents to provide any guidance to help their children with the basic homework. It would be too much to ask them if I have assigned something that the child has to construct at home. Many children already have the disadvantage of no home support. Do I just give up on those children’s potentials? I can’t let those children down.
As I was growing up, my parents never had time to help us with our homework. They had enough on their plate already. How could I expect them to help me with my work? Of course, I resented it as a child because I didn’t know better. Now, I can totally understand the struggle some families are going through. Anyway, I always have this simple principle regarding my class projects - I don’t assign any project for home, NOT AT ALL. Every single class project should be and would be done at school. The only project that I would assign to students would be something like the preparation for a formal speech presentation or newspaper report. I would usually teach the students how to do it in class and then they have to practise for their own presentation at home. Parents’ help is not necessary but they could simply be their child’s best audiences at home to cheer them on.
All the projects that I usually assign to my students would be completed in class. Weeks before each project, I would remind the class to bring materials to school. I encourage them to collect, reuse and recycle materials that could be used again for our project. Of course, I usually store these materials in my classroom before any project started, which has earned me a very negative title as the “packed rat” or "Marcos de Education" (Note 1). However, I could careless about what the other people call me. If my students could use the recycled materials to do wonderful things, then so be it! I would be very proud of that.
Before March break, my class finished the science on structures and stability with three major science projects completed as the summative assessments for this unit. The students were assigned to build a free standing tower, a suspension bridge and a small house using only newspaper, masking tape and string. There was no paper and pencil test for this term. Everything we did was done in class within a small cooperative learning group or individual summative projects. The students had to apply everything they learned in class to build each structure as well as to solve problems along the way to ensure that all structures were stable and correct. Each student had to be able to design, construct and orally communicate their applied knowledge on the final product.
Let me tell you, my students had SO much fun building their projects. In fact, it was a hassle when they refused to go out for recesses because they were working on their projects. (Hehehehe…. Well, I don’t know if they wanted to stay in because of the cold weather outside or because they just didn’t want to have a break from the project.) For my teacher friends out there who also teach elementary science, these three activities are perfect for the concepts on forces, matter and materials, and structure and stability. It was really an eye-opening opportunity to see who the true problem solvers are in my class.
I will post the photos of these new projects and the working process after I find my cable to download from the digital camera. I did a similar project two years ago and the photo is in my album. These doghouses were constructed with newspaper tubes and masking tape. The children used paper-Mache to frame the house. After they painted the house, they also used bristle boards as shingles to cover the roof. I remember I had a child sit on the house to prove how strong the newspaper house was before I sent all the houses home. It was amazing! Do try it at home.
The houses we built this year were not covered with paper-Mache. With only the frame, it is a lot easier to see if the students have applied all the structures and stability concepts to construct the model houses.
Note 1: Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. His wife, Imelda Marcos, was notorious for her extravagant collection of shoes.