In this project, students made topographic maps showing how one location might change over 10,000 years. A map was made to show before and after the changes occurred. Students calculated rates of change and estimated amounts of change in math class. The examples below are a sample of the finish projects.
In the hallway, I mounted the most complete projects as a permanent exhibition. I'm happy that I required such symmetry from the maps, because they look great as a series.
What worked: A success from this project was that students moved from critiquing the visuals of their projects to critiquing the content of their projects. Because they needed to justify what a realistic change might be in their chosen location, they needed to be able to say and show with data why plans were within the realm of possibility. Their peers who were also familiar with the same data were able to offer real feedback. This is a difference from previous projects of mine where the content is normally done at the individual level and we critique the artistic value of the projects at group level.
Another success was that all the students were expected to save the final 5% of their project to complete at exhibition. We set up a small version of the wood shop and parents gathered around to see their students use the tools to complete the last step of their map. We also made it so that the last map was a location that the families would recognize; we hoped that as the students finished working the parents would recognize the map and realize that it was a gift for them. It was nice to have a sort of finale project that the students can work on after they finished the content. This moved up our deadlines and made sure that the majority of the maps were fully finished for exhibition.
Surprises: A constant challenge for every project is trying to estimate how long it will take students to do different parts of the project themselves. When I do the work myself before the semester starts, I can time my own work but I know that my experience and my skill helps me to work more quickly than the students will when they're doing it for the first time. I don't think that I've had students finish a project as quickly or as slowly as I did with this one. Some were done weeks early and some genuinely took till the last minute to finish their Maps. This isn't really a problem because the majority of the work that was completed was of sufficient or high quality, but it has a weird effect on the class culture when some students are done way before everybody else is. I would prefer that as students finish their project they either make another draft of it or shift into an exhibition planning role.
Never Again: A big learning point for me for the digital portfolio posts was instead of requiring responses to certain questions (which means I have to go and verify that the questions have been completely answered) I prefer to give a time expectation. paired with each prompt is a length of time that I expect the students to spend on that particular question, and a place for them to write when they started and stopped working on it and initial that they spent the required amount of time on it. I realized that it's more about the time they spend than it is about pushing to get the right response and I think that this method better values their time.