September 7, 2020

Do you remember the projects you completed as a kid? 

I remember mine well.

As a 3rd grader, after learning about the universe I built a mobile model of the solar system. I used foam balls and paint to construct each planet. As a 6th grader, after learning about Medieval Europe, I built a castle out of sugar cubes. I remember vividly using toothpicks and nylon string to build the drawbridge. As a 7th grader, after learning about the scientific process, I ran a science experiment on how polymers effect plant growth. I remember displaying my findings on a cardboard trifold beside a hundred other peers inside of a huge auditorium.

I...

August 20, 2020

As we begin the 2020-2021 school year, many of us (me included) have spent sleepless nights wondering how to promote the same kind of online community that we find in our classrooms at school.

At school, where we are face to face with students, community connections seem to come naturally. We circle up, play games, participate in icebreakers, and establish norms that immediately foster a shared sense of community. We know how critical these bonds are in establishing a healthy and productive learning environment for our students.

How do we create these same bonds online when the only way to see students' faces is through a comput...

August 13, 2020

After a few conversations with school leaders across East Asia, I learned that the

#1 thing keeping them up at night is configuring next year’s master schedule.

It makes sense.

How do you configure a master schedule with teachers stuck across the world, new laws around CoVid 19, uncertainty around enrollment, social distancing mandatory in schools, and some families opting not to return?

While we can create a thousand sample scenarios of what the Fall may look like for us as leaders, the truth is, nobody knows. Rather than focus on configuring sample schedules, it’s more useful and important to configure how our master schedule f...

August 13, 2020

I was in the middle of a presentation for over 40 teachers on how to create project- based experiences online. We were using Microsoft Teams’ group video call; a tool I I have used for more than a dozen presentations. And just as I have done countless times in the past, I went to share my screen to guide teachers through each point.

Except nothing came up.

Just a black screen with my oblivious voice echoing in the background. But I didn’t know it.

I went on sharing slides, talking through each point as if I had all 40 participants captivated. Meanwhile, each one of them shared in the ‘chat’ box that while they could hear my voice...

August 6, 2020

Story of PBL Transformation: Community Food Truck

When I met with the 5th grade team at Park Maitland, a small school in Orlando, Florida, they were hoping project-based learning could better develop their students as community problem solvers. And while they didn’t immediately have a project, they had a strong concept:

FOOD TRUCKS

The math teacher had brought the idea to the team after she saw food trucks popping up throughout the community.

The biggest challenge her team faced however was integrating their subject- specific content into the overall project idea.

I told them we could ‘hack’ an integrated project design i...

August 4, 2020

When Anne Robinson, the instructional coach at Gompers Charter School in San Diego approached me, she was hoping her teachers could develop projects that better connected students with the surrounding community.

The major challenge was that teachers had no prior training in leading these kinds of experiences…

Teachers also feared that developing these projects would detract from their core mission: achieving high academic results that ensured college placement. Knowing that buy-in from all teachers would require proven success with PBL, we chose five eager teachers and 100 students in the 10th-grade team to receive the training.

...

July 27, 2020

Do you remember what your classroom looked like when you were a kid?

I remember my 8th grade Social Studies classroom well.

There were fifteen tables, all aligned in neat rows, that faced the front. I sat next to my best friend at a table in the back. Our teacher, an animated woman with gray fizzly hair and big spectacles, paced excitedly back and forth from the front; discussing some historical figure that she projected onto the whiteboard. We raced to take notes. The only sound other than her voice came from the constant buzz of an overhead projector 15 feet away.

In my 1980’s childhood, the classroom was where all learning too...

July 21, 2020

When students in Keri Aspegran’s class returned to The International Montessori School after the CoVid- 19 social distancing rules had been lifted, they arrived to a turtle tank covered in algae.

They had to plug their noses. The smell was that bad. The tank was covered in dark green algae, and their pet turtle was walled up in a corner.

Wasting no time, Mrs. A grabbed some algae, put it under the microscope and projected the image onto the big screen. Kids huddled closely. She asked students to identify what they saw.

Excitedly, students pointed out the expanse of invertebrates they learned about in previous lessons. They also h...

July 10, 2020

Do you have a hard time letting go of control in your classroom? 

I know I did.

I remember as a young teacher staying up into late hours of the night ruminating over the perfect lesson, project, hook, and learning experiences for my students.

I envisioned a classroom where  students were fully engaged, eager to learn, and hung on my every word.

Luna Ray, a young teacher of at- risk youth and former High Tech High student had the same vision for learning in her classroom.

That’s why when she introduced the hurricane documentary project immediately after the largest storm to hit Houston in 100 years ravaged the city; she expected ex...

June 24, 2020

For every event of such blatant racism caught on video, there are a thousand more incidents of racism lying beneath the surface.

As educators, how do we help address and discuss such a difficult topic with our students?

Activity #1: Picture Discussion Protocol 

This is an activity allows students to uncover the underlying causes of inequity.

The setup: Project a picture at the front of your classroom, or if meeting with online learners- on a shared screen in Zoom. I like this picture:

The Discussion: Ask students to answer these three questions in this order:

What do you see? What do you infer? How might this picture represent...

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Kyle Wagner
School Transformation and Project- Based Learning Coach

I help forward thinking educators and schools create socially, emotionally, and globally aware citizens through project based learning.

Preliminary School Transformation Guide

 

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Change doesn't have to be so hard. This book equips leaders with simple strategies for school transformation; helping schools conquer standards, individualize learning, and create a community of innovators.

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