The Building Project

A Project by Third-Grade Students at an Elementary School in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Length of project: 12 weeks
Teachers:  Darlene Williams, Carmelle Workun

Phase One—Beginning the Project

The topic of "Building" integrated a number of curriculum goals. It was also a topic that the children had prior knowledge of and were interested in studying. There were also resources and local experts to be called on. The teachers began the project by telling the children simple stories about recent home renovations they had both done to their houses. Children then shared stories about their homes and their experiences with building. After sharing stories, the class brainstormed a list of possible activities from which to choose to give them another opportunity to share and represent their experiences with building. The children drew and labeled houses, surveyed classmates about the types of houses they live in, and constructed models of buildings. Throughout this phase children's questions about building were collected on a chart which was displayed in the room. These questions were used to focus the research of our project: How does electricity get into the house? How do you build a basement? Why are some roofs flat and some sloped? How do you know if a building is safe once it is built? What materials do they use to build a sky scraper? How did they build the pyramids in Egypt? Do all houses look the same around the world?

Phase Two—Developing the Project

There were several guests who visited the classroom to help the children with their research. Among them were a roofer, a carpenter, a tool safety expert, an old-fashioned tool worker, a surveyor, and a bridge builder. The class also made weekly visits to a house construction site. They visited a pioneer village and went on a tour of the neighborhood. The children engaged in a variety of investigation and representation activities. Some wrote research reports on famous buildings. One group wrote a play based on a talk-show format, explaining the various steps involved in building a house. Some presented their information in a multi-media format. One group made a booklet on tools and tool safety. Children also made observational drawings of buildings and building materials, a poster on old-fashioned tools, a comic strip about pioneers building a homestead, a book report on different houses around the world, and a Venn diagram comparing building materials in hot and cold places. Many discussions and sharing sessions took place where the children had opportunities to appreciate and comment on one another's work and to contribute new understanding and knowledge to the group. Children's work was displayed throughout the classroom, on school bulletin boards and in the school display case at the entrance to the school. Questions generated in Phase One were reviewed regularly and children able to respond to a particular question shared their new-found knowledge and insights with the class.

Phase Three—Concluding the Project

The children decided to have a photo slide show for their parents to highlight key features of the project. Each child chose two slides and wrote up their narrative, focusing on describing what was happening in the slide and what learning took place from the experience. Each child also selected work from his or her project folder for parents to see. The class then spent a wonderful afternoon with parents presenting the story of our project in a slide show, sharing their project portfolios with their parents, and taking their parents around to the various bulletin boards and display cases showing them their work and the work of their classmates. As a final culminating activity, a group of fathers organized a bird house building activity. Each child had the opportunity to design and build his or her own bird house. In order to remember our project, the class put together a memory album consisting of photos taken during the project and anecdotal stories written by the children.

Comments

This project on "Building" was the focus of a Master's thesis study focusing on assessment and evaluation in project work. Believing that traditional assessment and evaluation methods are inadequate to capture the amount and diversity of learning taking place during project work, we wanted to experiment with a wider variety of assessment and evaluation tools and techniques in order to best document children's learning. Some of the assessment and evaluation tools used during the project included: learning logs, field notes, quality work charts, project work planning sheets, self-assessment and evaluation criteria for Phase Two activities, peer evaluation strategies, a project study sheet, portfolio and project self-evaluation sheets, and anecdotal notes. The most significant insights gained from this study of assessment and evaluation in project work concerned the necessity to involve children in the assessment and evaluation process from the very beginning of the project. Children were helped by knowing up front the expectations concerning their work and behavior, and they needed to be a part of the process which determined these expectations.

  Venn Diagram on Old and New Tools

Drawing of safety wear


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