A small multi-purpose room. People coming in and out. Voices carrying outside. Once inside the voices are louder and people are everywhere. Forty tables with two to three poster projects sitting on each. Many have props with the posters: slide shows and movies on computers/tablets, candy dishes, snowboards, guitars. One hundred people at a time walking up and down the aisle speaking to one hundred students about those students’ passions that led to one hundred different creative and innovative projects. The gleam in the eyes and the excitement in the voices of the students create an atmosphere of positive energy and awe at what is happening in the room.
Five weeks ago, they were told they would be working on a 20% Project one day a week for the semester. Since that day they have each done some serious soul-searching about a topic they could be passionate about and developed that topic into a sustainable project. The project will be graded on the students’ public speaking skills informally at the project idea pitch (today) and formally at an end-of-project reflection.
Today’s project-idea pitch took the form of a poster session. Students were pulled out of their morning classes to exhibit their ideas and talk about what they are going to do to teachers, school and district administrators, fellow students, and, scariest of all, their own parents. About 400 people supported the students by attending today’s event. The students took great pride in their projects by putting serious time and effort into their posters and props even when they knew these things wouldn’t actually be graded. What was graded exceeded all expectations- what they said. They were articulate, they wanted to know if their audience had any questions they might be able to answer, the students even sought out an audience by drawing people in and asking if they wanted to hear about the project.
The grading. It took close to 3.5 hours to go through each project and talk to each student about his/her ideas. Next time I might ask a few teachers to help me grade the projects as the rubric was very simple (see link to rubric below).
20% Project >