Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Project/Problem-Based Learning (Chapter 12)

I am linking up today with First Grader... At Last for chapter 12 of our best practices book study. I have been a bit MIA from the blogging world due to being out of town and getting awfully sick! But I plan to get caught back up and post about the chapters I have missed. :D

I really feel like I could do a lot of improving in this area of instruction. While I do a lot of the ideas listed in the text, I still feel like I could do more with STEM projects. I have tried several STEM in the past, and they were always a lot of fun!

One of my favorite interdisciplinary, project-based units that I have done is my Season of Giving entrepreneurship unit that I did with my 4th graders in my previous school district. It was SO MUCH FUN!!! I collaborated with another teacher on my grade level to write the unit. Then we implemented it with all five teachers in the fourth grade.

We wanted to get our students thinking about how they could “give back” to the community during the holidays.  Each homeroom decided on a “product” that they wanted to create to sell for a profit. They had to determine the initial start-up costs, which we (the teachers) funded ourselves at first. Then they had to create the product, create a marketing campaign using different marketing strategies, and determine the markup for their items in order to make a profit. They sold the products during lunch time, so students had to be able to count money and make change. 

At the end of the unit, the classrooms paid back their teachers for the initial start-up costs and we split the profits up equally. Each classroom had $120 to spend!  Students wrote essays to be selected to go to the grocery store to shop with the money. Our students worked in teams (by homeroom) to purchase the types of items on their lists. They had to keep a running estimate of the total in their heads because they were competing to be the team at the checkout that spent the closest to $120 without going over.  Afterwards, we loaded up the trunks of our cars and all drove to the food banks to deliver the food. The project generated so much excitement that our students even gave a presentation about it at the next school board meeting. They had to present and speak in front of a large group of people, including the superintendent!

I loved this project for so many reasons. It encouraged students to work together to solve a problem. They had to collaborate in teams in order to be successful. They had so many opportunities to see how math concepts in class related to the real world. They also got to show off their unique talents by the types of marketing they selected to do. The best part was that it encouraged them focus on helping others during the holidays when so many kids are thinking about what they want for themselves.

Sadly, I was RIF’d from this school at the end of the school year due to budget cuts, so I never got the opportunity to try this unit again with a different group of kids. I am excited to report, though, that the other four teachers still do this unit each year with their students! They assure me that it is always a big hit!

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