As I began to approach the next units in the Geometry curriculum that covered area, surface area and volume, topics that my students had plenty of prior knowledge of, I wanted to try something different. I didn’t want to review topics they knew through mini-lessons, activities and practice. I wanted to take their prior knowledge and extend it. Then I remembered Sarah’s (http://everybodyisageniusblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/apartment-remodel-project.html) blog post about her Apartment Remodel project and I knew what I was going to do. I got in touch with Sarah, asking tons of questions and getting a lot of assistance (She’s awesome by the way). I shared my thoughts with another teacher in my district and she wanted to do this with her students too. I shared all of Sarah’s links and answers to questions with her and she jumped in with both feet. It was so nice to have another teacher in the district to collaborate with AND she was just about to leave on her pregnancy leave and she still went all in. She was a bit ahead of me and I started looking at files I had of other things and that’s when I went crazy.
I kid you not…I wanted to do more, to make my students stretch more and to really see how this could be used in real life. Sarah’s project was awesome but with a few things I was dealing with at the Admin evaluation level, I felt like it wasn’t enough.
So, I went and changed EVERYTHING I was doing. I used Sarah’s flooring and painting as part of my project, but nothing else was the same. Why have them each change the same floor plan? It was definitely easier on the teacher for grading, but after conversations with my principal about student choice (that’s an entirely different blog post), I wanted to give them more freedom within some real life constraints. Plus I wanted to include area, surface area and volume within the project.
Thus the Design your Dream Home project was born, but I had a lot of help from a teacher who I had found YEARS ago, I think the original file that I had for this project was from 2004 or 2005. Here is a link to his classroom website, where he shares all files and explanations of the project. http://manghammath.com/architecturedaybyday.html He also has tons of other awesome project he does within his classroom.
This was a 5 week project, with 11 in class work days and each week had one mini-lesson day covering certain skills along with a skill quiz on earlier skills. (There were a handful of short weeks within the time frame we did this.) I still wanted to keep up with SBG as we went through the project. The students were to build their dream home to fit on a specific lot size, meet a certain square footage and fall within a certain cost. They had to meet local building codes, include certain rooms, but have freedom for layout, landscaping, etc. Students worked in groups of 2, 3, or 4 and split up their jobs at the start of the project. In the future, I would prefer groups of 3 and remind them more of their specific jobs they signed up for…budgeting time is NOT a strong suit of middle school students and while they could have each been working on their individual to do lists, the groups tended to work on one thing together.
We decided as a group that we wanted to have an open house, we picked the date and I had the students organize it, create the wording for the flyers (but they wanted me to create it with fun fonts, they know me well), figure out how to best set up the area for the open house and who to invite. The evening was a HUGE success, even though the week of I was freaking out because my students procrastination level was SO much higher than I wanted and we had this hard fast deadline we couldn’t change. We had architects, realtors, home builders, parents, siblings, teachers and even our new superintendent in attendance. My students were so excited!
This project brought together more than I originally intended in a great way, heck it even had students IN SCHOOL on their days off. We had a few institute days during this time and I told students they could come work, if they wanted to…on a day off. That was pretty neat.
If I am teaching Geometry again next year, I will do this, but change a handful of things.
- Add a job completion checklist for each job to help keep students on track daily. I had a daily to do list, but maybe more specific to each job would be helpful…I’m not sure.
- Remove the video part of the project, seemed like it was tossed in and cause more issues than we needed. Plue they weren’t easily viewable during our Open House.
- Add an Award for Best Sales Pitch. We never discussed the specifics of what the Open House would look like, but I told them they needed to be ready to answer questions and explain why they did what they did in their house. They ended up trying to “sell” the house to the adults as they walked by, a lot of it was to pitch what they were trying to get an award for, but it was awesome.
- Find a way to keep better track of the architecture & landscaping templates. They are EXPENSIVE and I am still missing some.
- Reorganize the packet I gave them. It needs to be easier to find the information they need, I think some of their issues were how I organized the information.
This was by far my favorite thing so far this year. What I learned is that my students still struggle with reading directions, they are afraid to take risks unless they get confirmation from me and they need to do things like this more often.