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June's Corner 2012

Javits Frasier Scholarship

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Looking to the Future Makes the Present Productive 

Now is the perfect time to look ahead to Fall, before the summer break truly begins. It’s not too soon to consider a project that will be due at the end of NEXT school year, one that asks students to create several products that  demonstrate a range of skills.  I know firsthand that it can be quite  successful -- I just finished grading!

Let’s look at the project concept: a long-term assignment instructing students to look to the future in terms of their own success and contribution to society. This framework allows teachers to evaluate student progress in  the areas of Questioning, Interviewing, Writing, Creating, and Communicating. These skills are embedded not only in the project, but in the Core Curriculum.

In my classes this year, students were prompted to imagine that 53 years had gone by and they were being named “Person of the Year.”  A sculpture would be commissioned in their hometown to honor them and would reflect the contributions they have made to the world in a symbolic and abstract way.  Incorporated into this sculpture would be an original creative poem to be read at the unveiling. Students were also responsible for writing a transcript of a mock press conference that would occur after the ceremony. Students were expected to work on this project independently and had four weeks to complete it. Students presented the sculpture and poem as an oral presentation.

I was amazed and impressed by a majority of the projects. The sculptures were uniquely and creatively crafted. The poems were truthful, revealing, and demonstrated correct form. Oral presentations were rehearsed, clearly articulated, and powerful. It was the mock press conference Q & A transcripts though, that floored me. I had expected some depth in the responses but almost all of the student answers to a similar question about their motivation and inspiration expressed a variation of the concern, “what  can I do to make this a better world?”  I was reminded of the veracity of the observation by Annemarie Roeper and others about gifted children’s early awareness of the world and their role in it.  Here are a few examples of responses students provided in their mock interviews:

“When I was 13, I took a trip to Puerto Rico that made me think about stray animals. I saw so many homeless animals on the streets, in the road, on the highway. That is when I really knew I wanted to make a difference. So I started The Shelter Program.”
-Hannah, 7th Grade

“I am glad for the success of the Future Key. I will probably make more devices that will aid in scientific research, possibly helping cure life-threatening diseases.”
-Nikhilas, 7th Grade

“Stage-a-Change was born out of my love for theater and the environment. I couldn’t think of a more perfect vehicle for advocacy.”
-Torby, 7th Grade

“I realized that some serious work needed to be done to protect the Earth. A lot of people would need to be involved. I felt the urge to lead.”
-Vanessa, 7th Grade

As I graded their sculptures, poems, and press conference transcripts, I couldn’t help but wonder what the future holds for these young adolescents. They are excited, motivated, and inspired. I feel optimistic about their roads to educational and professional success.

I urge you to consider this project, in part or in whole, with your students sometime next school year. Take the summer to read it over, rework it to meet your classroom needs, and start the year with an eye to a new end-of year project that will be meaningful for your students, and revealing to you. The entire assignment packet, with specific directions for each section, is available for download here.  

Previous June “Teacher’s Corner” columns are available online:

Looking Ahead: Considerations, Suggestions, and Success 

Improving One's Own Corner: Making a List  

Find a Way to Begin the Year Differently