Project One School: Empowering Kids Two Days at a Time

I’m behind. I have about 10 blog posts I need to write. But my words all seem to be going to other spaces…Coetail blogs, report cards, emails. All those places words go. But I’m blogging now. And that’s my little victory for today. 

I’m starting this off with the statement that this wasn’t my project. I was there for support. And ideas. And feedback. And support. But this entire project was the brainchild of Cari Barbour, English teacher extraordinaire. But I did want to blog about it, so I don’t forget.

The Germ of an Idea: Where did this idea come from?

  • Where: At the EARCOS middle school conference
  • When: 2 days in  May 2015
  • Who:  A bunch of middle school teachers from YIS. Just having the group of teachers with time to talk and laugh meant that we could make something happen
  • What: Could we take our middle school kids off of timetable for a project based learning week?

First Prototype: What did we first think would happen?

  • Who: All middle schoolers in mixed grade teams
  • When: One week at the end of the 2015 school year. Beacause we don’t do anything
  • What: Students would create something based around something that interested them. Students would be grouped around themes like “Arts” “Sports” or “Service” We would include sessions about Approaches to Learning.

It was pretty obvious from the first discussion this was a step beyond where we actually were. A week was too much time. The idea of something was too vague. And we were too tired to actually make it happen.

Second Prototype: What we actually did 

  • What: In your groups you will design, organize, and present a new idea to bring together a new idea to bring YIS together.
  • How: The three winning pitches (who met the criteria according to three judges) will be funded by a PTSA grant (thanks PTSA!)


So you want to run your own PBL days and you want to steal some stuff (please do! And then share how you made it better!) 

If you want to see what things actually looked like, check out the Project One School googlesite. This was the resource the kids had and you can see the schedule for the day, what skills they kids worked on, and information about the idea of the pitch and the rubric for the most successful pitch.

  • Reflection: 
    • It was amazing. You should do it at your school. Kids are fantastic and they always step up. They handled the freedom of being off timetable, with minimal teacher supervision, with responsibility and a sense of pride.Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 3.13.56 PM
      • Teach your kids how to do action plans. It’s worth it, even though it sounds boring. At leadership day last year, a bunch of kids were introduced to an action plan and used it to plan events and activities. And with the kids in lots of different groups, there was at least one “expert” who could help the kids create a two day action plan. And now kids are using for dances or for GIN-CAS concerts, etc.
      • I loved watching kids go and talk to people they don’t normally talk to. They interviewed the principal. They found the service learning coordinator. They interviewed grade 3 kids. They surveyed high school kids. It was a great way to get people talking and letting the kids take the lead. When do our kids have the opportunities to do this. Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 8.05.56 AM
      • We need to involve more teachers. I think there was a core group of people who knew (kind of/sort of ) knew was going on. We need more teachers involved next year.
      • Even though kids were off-timetable, logistics were still a nightmare. How is that even possible? Each group had a logistics manager…they needed to know where there was supposed to be and when.
        • Do brain breaks. We had one kid in each group lead people with brain breaks.
        • There were stakes and they were very real. Every group had to present. Everyone had to contribute. There was a winner. This was negotiable.  This is vital to giving energy to the days. Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 3.11.17 PM
          • Kids were practicing all the skills we want them to: Creative commons presentations. Public speaking. Collaboration. Making connections between classes. Collaboration. Collaboration.
          • Here are the kid’s reflections. If it’s possible for a google form to be entertaining, this might be it.
          • Process is more important than product. Do I really need to expand?

Next Steps:

  • 3 groups won. They now have mentor teachers and are working towards getting it done
  • Non-winning presentations may still happen. You don’t have to win to bring the school together.
  • We will do it again. Bigger and better. Stay tuned


Photos found at the YIS Smug Mug


About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
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