So maybe it is the Marine in me, but my mind went straight to a Punkin War. Teams set up positions around a Pumpkin Patch, supported by Punkin Artillery, with each team trying to drag as many pumpkins as possible back to their base, all the while avoiding getting jacked up by incoming jack-o-lanterns. I know, not likely we could get an event premised on hitting students with twenty-pound gords coming in from a mile, but wow would there be some authentic assessment going on.
Ok, on a more serious and less disturbing note. As a former science teacher I have seen lots of really cool ideas (egg drop contests, spaghetti houses holding up a particular weight) end up having the learning sucked right out of them. Why? Lots of reasons but the biggest have to do with time, pedagogy and pride.
Too often the projects are crammed into the curriculum, meaning that the event goes on no matter what students have learned. Not having nearly enough time to make mistakes and learn from them means many students end up at the final event essentially winging it. As the final event is set up to be a spectacle, it often goes off without a hitch- pumpkins fly and eggs drop- as long as nobody asks any hard questions. Ironically, students could have gone through the whole unit without learning much of anything except how to do sloppy half-assed work. Then someone takes pictures of the whole event that get published in some piece of school propaganda and passed off as learning- true Potempkin Village Pedagogy. Back to test prep.
Truth is the learning starts when the wheels fall off the project. Students wing it, which often means the pumpkin goes nowhere, the egg breaks, and the spaghetti house crumbles. Now we have a problem, which means Continue Reading