For years the 8th grade research project had been dead.
A nearly forgotten piece of Parker Middle School lore, the veteran social studies teacher on my team longed for its return, lamenting that the shifted attention to mathematics due to AYP goals and district initiatives had cut out the time necessary for such an endeavor.
Or had it?
At the beginning of the year my team broke ranks with our 8th grade teaching counterparts and set off an ambitious goal: Resurrect the research project. At least partly. To be fair, our AYP commitment was still very much in our minds. Ultimately, the team of 96 students was broken into three groups, two smaller groups of students struggling in ELA and Math would receive remedial treatment to help boost their core skills. The remaining half of the team was left to me and the same social studies teacher mentioned above. Their goal? Investigate a topic of personal interest in society or the environment and create a podcast to be published and shared with their fellow students.
Students selected topics ranging from abortion rights and gun control to the consequences of deforestation and rapid population growth. Every other day students spent a period researching, outlining, tracking resources and sharing with one another using the social bookmarking website, delicious. The directions and general flow of the project was outlined on a wiki that students logged on to each day to follow the next step in their research process.
I recently blogged about the power of publishing for an “audience greater than one,” or “AGTO” if you were looking for one more education acronym in our 140 character world. Today we finally took time out to have all of our students on team survey some of the podcasts with topics (or publishers) that interested them. The reactions of the students who could hear their podcasts playing on other students computers were priceless. Some show tremendous pride in the form of big smiles when students commented on their creative format or informative content. Others were embarrassed red, aware that the quality of their work did not match up quite to those of others, (a powerful lesson… we do live in a competitive world!) but mostly because they were still too immature to stand the sound of their own voice.
To hear some of our students podcasts, follow the link to our examples page here.