Work in progress: Project Climate

I'm definitely overdue for a bit of in-progress analysis of Project Climate (as described here). We've been at it for a few weeks now, and we're in the final stages of the project as a whole.

Makin' me proud

  • Quality of product. The quality level of the students' writing and thinking on climate change related topics is impressive. Take this student's entire work, for example. The posts are a great mix of information, opinion, and insight.
  • Staying engaged. I was afraid as we began this project that students would grow tired of it and lose momentum and enthusiasm. So far this hasn't been an issue, and the level of engagement seems to have increased somewhat as students became more comfortable with the format.
  • All of you. We've gotten quite a good response from those of you in the Twitterverse & beyond. Students really enjoy getting comments from people outside of the school and from around the world. I'm not sure this would've been possible without twitter1.
  • Rethinking learning. A student's reflection & self-evaluation of the project says it more eloquently than I could phrase it:

As far as the learning part goes, I’m not sure anything I have learned would be on a test. I have learned things that no one could learn from a text book because they are objective to the point of teaching people the facts. I haven’t learned the facts, I don’t know the carbon emissions of countries by heart, I don’t know all the projects people have set up to help solve global warming, and I don’t think that I should. I have learned far more important things. I have learned that you don’t have to be wealthy to help others, maybe it’s even the opposite. I have learned that you can fix a problem you didn’t cause. I have even learned that people of different cultures and different native language can work together to make a big difference.

The not so great

  • More parents. I stink at parental involvement. I should've done a better job at communicating with parents and getting them involved in the project. I sent out a letter early in the semester explaining what we'd be doing, but didn't do much since then. Next time around this needs to improve.
  • Self-evaluation. I wanted students to be intimately involved in the assessment of their work. Unfortunately I didn't get started on doing this with students until recently. Self-evaluation will still play a role in the students' final assessment of their work, but I didn't set up the framework early enough to have it play a major role.
  • Not enough experts. I managed to make contact with a couple scientists who were willing to help out- but I  should've put forth a better effort to get people working in and around climate change issues involved2
  • That great story. I don't have a student who was totally struggling and then suddenly became engaged in the project and subsequently committed their life to being a climate scientist- or anything close to it. Some students aren't as engaged as I'd like- many of the same who weren't as engaged pre-Project Climate. I'm not sure if this is really a negative or just the way things are. I would've preferred if all the strugglers suddenly became over-achievers, but perhaps that's a little optimistic.
  • Lack of local knowledge. I haven't done a great job of sharing what we're doing within my own school as I have with those online. I've told a few other teachers and a couple administrators about it, but I'm not sure any of them have actually looked at any students' work. I'm not so great at self-promotion, especially in person.

Next time around

I'd like to run this project again in future years. From my (biased) perspective, the students are actively involved in selecting their specific topics and as such are finding it easier to really dig into the content. Student learning seems to be high. Classroom happiness is high. It's a fun time to be in the classroom. However, we're spending essentially 5 weeks studying climate change. Is that too long? Is the depth of learning worth the loss in breadth of learning? Will students bomb the standardized tests because we traded electricity & magnetism for Project Climate? Will I get support from the administration in the future?3

Help 'em out

Students are still writing and reflecting on issues of climate change. They'd still love your thoughts and comments on their posts. Check them out:

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  1. If you're sick of seeing me posting #ProjectClimate tweets, don't worry, the project will be over soon. 🙂      (back)
  2. Big thanks to Eric Heupel for coming in and explaining to students his work involving the effect of warming waters on native fish populations in the Gulf of Maine.     (back)
  3. I did run this project by my principal and curriculum coordinator before it began, but at that point it was hypothetical. Now it's real and eating up nearly a quarter of a quarter of the school year- and totally different from anything the other teachers with the same class are doing.     (back)