We, the People of Mars....
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To back up, one of my first projects as a teacher at a fully project-based school was titled: We, the People of Mars... This project was geared towards my sophomores in World History and the driving question was "How can we as inhabitants of a new planet create a functional government?" The goal was for students to investigate different types of governments around the world to create their own unique government for Mars.
My inspiration came from the PBL training provided BIE, where my colleagues and I created a project according to their organizational format. After a very helpful brainstorm with another teacher, they pointed me in the direction of Mars One, an international project that hopes to one day settle humanity Mars that would obviously need a government at some point.
I launched the project with the Prezi below, which I also used to outline and guide the project as time went on. I would like to say that I had this entire Prezi create by the time I launched the project, but I didn't for one reason: to allow myself the ability to adapt to the needs of the students as reflection is essential for both the students and teachers. I knew the plan and pace of the project, but I wanted to be able to change and evolve the project as needed without student confusion.
The first step of the entire project was to give students an understanding of various government systems around the world. My natural default was to lecture about these types of government, but my new colleagues encouraged me to have the students do the research; the goal is that they are learning through the project and not just regurgitating information I gave them. Because I tend to overcorrect when given suggestions, I was so hesitant to do direct instruction and I pushed the students immediately into groups to research of various systems of governments (following this template) without providing them with the key words and knowledge they needed to decode information about a country's government system.
To me, this was the biggest and most cringe-worthy mistake that I made in this project. Many students misused words in their System of Government presentation and there was some confusion. The other problem was that many of the students selected countries that were mostly democratic so they didn't get much exposure to other types. In the end, this was the point of the project that the earlier image that I found on Pinterest would have been helpful to the students; one I plan on incorporating next year.
Moving past my most glaring failure, students then participated in a loosely organized Speed Dating Session, where they shared their reflections for the type of government they believed should be on Mars. They then paired up with their 'soulmate' to work together to create a functional government for Mars. Because of the lack of group cooperation with the System of Government presentation, I adapted and had students create Group Contracts, as recommended by BIE and outlined below. I was also sure to implement Group Evaluation (Click here if you would like to make a copy) after each group step to keep students accountable.
Once the contracts were approved and signed, students then began work on the final project; one worked on the Proposal Template and the other worked on the iMovie. At first I had students submit learning logs, but I found that students submitting assignments as check points was more beneficial for me and the students; examples included submitting their description of government or submitting their storyboard for the iMovie. At the very end, students presented their proposed government through their iMovies and peers reviewed each iMovie.
Overall, I received some amazing exemplars of the project:
The Toby Sovereign
Republic of Mars
Martian government(FAKE NOT REAL) from Ryan Hoppenrath on Vimeo.
Untitled from Jesson Cerenio on Vimeo.
Even though I have done two more projects with my students, I still cringe at the 'rookie' mistakes that I made throughout We, the People of Mars... But as I tell my students, "Its ok to make mistakes. It just shows you're learning!"