End of Year Reflection – Part 1

We are officially out here at my school in Nebraska.  Today was the first day with no kids or meetings.  We have a two-week lay-off until summer session starts, so I’m getting back to this blog and some other things that have been tabled since my second daughter was born a few weeks ago.  As I finished off the year and signed off on cumulative reports the other day, I reflected on some of the things my students and I worked on this year.

Most Successful Project

One of the biggest undertakings for me and the students was the Energy Monkey renewable energy unit.  The students (8th graders) built a wiki from the ground up to document the research and labs they conducted throughout the project.  Each day a pair of students reflected on the project in a post for the Green Monkey Blog.  They also developed  and taught a lesson on electricity to 4th graders.  Each individual had a different task each day, but everyone hit their deadlines and worked hard.  Because of limited computers and time, I set up a batting rotation of sorts to keep students updated and on track (the daily roles matrix I set up later helped me when science fair rolled around).  While it was chaotic at times, I was very pleased with the students’ progress and engagement throughout the project.  They really took ownership of it and got a lot from it.

Biggest Disappointment

My most disappointing project of the year started off with a bang, but fizzled for a variety of reasons.  This was the fourth year of the Green Monkey Project (the Energy Monkey wiki and blog are also part of this), which started with Green Monkey Schools in 2006.  The following year students created Green Monkey Business, and the next class created Green Monkey Homes in 2008.  This year, I decided to have my 6th graders remake the business site.  The goal was to call businesses, survey their recycling habits, and direct them to some information about what they could do to improve.  We spent a lot of time practicing phone calls, researching, and designing glogs for the new and improved business site.  Unfortunately, when we got to the calls, students spent a lot of time on hold, endlessly re-directed to another person, or just told that they’d have to call back later.  I finally decided to move because the whole project was getting drawn out and there was a lot more I wanted to cover for the year.  We took another shot about two weeks ago as we wound down the year, but got mostly the same result.  Ultimately, the students never really completed the site.  The site’s unfinished state was frustrating to me, but many of the students cited it as their favorite project of the year in my end of year survey.

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