Sunday, March 23, 2014

How do you plan a city? PBL in the classroom

    It's good to back in the friendly confines of my blog since it has been too long since last posting. I've got to find a better way to be more accountable.  This year's work is progressing nicely as we are at the end of the semester.  Students have made tremendous gains in their learning.  As I stated in earlier posts, I work with a team of teachers with the same 100 students.  Having the same students has enhanced how well we know our learners and makes planning cross curricular activities much easier.  We have control of our class meeting times and can adjust as needed when we are doing team projects or have special guests share present.
    Our work thus far has led to engaging, collaborative work that students have really responded well to.  I can honestly say this has been my most enjoyable year of teaching.  I feel like the work I'm having students do is more relevant and meaningful to them.  Our work this year has ranged from International Student Presenters from the University of South Carolina, Creating Apple Mummies to connect with Egypt, and have city planners from Columbia come to work with our students as they create a city scale drawing of their unique city.  The last work on the city design has been amazing.  I am proud of the work our students did with one another.  We had students work across content disciplines and levels.  I feel this organization made this activity even more rewarding because all levels of students were involved and challenged to think critically on what should be involved in designing a city.  Here's our process we took over the past two months to bring this project to its completion.

I'm putting my Project reflections at the beginning.  If you'd like to read the steps check them out below.  

Closure: My Personal Feedback

    As I look back on this project I am really proud of the work students accomplished.  Bringing in experts, working across all content areas, and setting groups heterogeneously really worked well.  I think all these factors made this project a success and allowed students to have the support they needed to design cities that could be legitimately sustainable.

  To make this better for other groups considering such a project I would suggest you find a stronger math presence.  We talked of scale and map grids but other than that math got short-changed.  I definitely think there is a place for math but we did not do as well getting that content involved.  Secondly, we needed to get this project finished in a shorter amount of time.  This stretched over 3 months and we used a total of probably 10 school days.  Of those 10 I would say 6 were all content periods.  The others were for part of the day.  That allowed for good work but it did affect other studies.  Lastly, we needed to find a real-world element.  I wish we could have found a park or area in our community students' could have helped design or update.  That would have taken the ideas they had on their own maps and put into practice.

   I would encourage anyone with a willingness to help your students see what it takes to organize and plan a city to try this project.  Enjoy reading our steps and please contact me if you have questions about the work.

(Connections to Science (Sci), Social Studies (SS), Lang. Arts (ELA), Math (M)

Step One:
Make connections with content and get an expert.

Blended Learning of City Designs:
VoiceThread viewing with Google Form to assess learning

Small Group discussions with students to assess knowledge of city designs

Students played game from BBC Professor Indus: Mohonejo-Daro

 - Students studied city lay-outs in my class as we studied the Indus River Valley city of Mohenjo-Daro.  Examining this city lay-out and other modern cities by using VoiceThread I created helped introduce city planning. (SS)

- Next, students met with local city planners from Columbia to learn about mapping, scale, and how city planners use citizens interpretations and views of their surroundings to figure out how to design different aspects of a city.  (SS, Sci, M)

- Students worked with the city planners and created a map of what they encountered between their home and drive to our school.  These drawings told a lot about what was important to students by what details they gave.  Examples included:  neighborhood landmarks, restaurants, and particular signs along their journey.  (SS, Sci)

Students blogged about this experience: Posts - "City Design"  Abernathy 1st Pd.     Abernathy 2nd Pd 
Step Two:

Form groups, define key words and concepts, brainstorm the type of city desired, and prepare for Rite of Passage to begin planning out city.

- Students were placed in heterogeneous groups to create a city.

- Students defined key vocabulary:  scale, ecosystem, characteristics of a civilization (laws, government, economy, art/culture, inventions, written language)   (SS, Sci, M)

- Students needed to choose where they city would be located and if it would be ancient, modern, or futuristic (research possible city sizes or types based on geographic location) (SS, Sci)

-  Go through the Rite of Passage providing what kind of city, 4 justifications for why it could sustain life, define key vocabulary, and give example. (Sci, SS, M)

Step Three:

-  Begin designing and drawing city to scale: Students had large easel paper to draw their city to scale (M, SS)

- Students had to create a map key and designate different areas of their city to different parts (schools, government center, business district, etc) (SS, Sci)

-  Important advantage during this process was a revisit by Columbia City Planners for feedback and consultation

- Students used this feedback and had not only the birds eye view but also created a side view, like a snow globe, to show topography  (SS, Sci)

Step Four:

- Final completion of the maps.  Do necessary coloring and make clear markings on city (SS, Sci)

- Write a written description of city highlighting all the important components.  Provide viewers a in-depth view will all key vocabulary and concepts of city that they would not pick up from looking at city map.  (ELA, SS, Sci, M)

Step Five: Showcase

- Students show off their work and have guests from Columbia City Planners and school district come and see their finished products.

 To close, we did a gallery walk where students used post-it notes to share feedback on what they liked as well as critiques group's could use to reflect on their own work.

- Each group then did a close feedback form where they answered two tasks.
    Task 1:  Type the "Keepers" and "Polishers" sticky note feedback
    Q2:  If you could redo any parts of your map what would you do?

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