The Good Project

I hesitated about doing this post. I know that educators are struggling right now. You are trying to do what has to be done, and you don’t need anything extra. Getting through what is already required by your district and/or school is stressful enough.

But, The Good Project is really… well… good! It is meaningful, full of free resources, and incredibly relevant. And you, the teacher, can differentiate for yourself by choosing the level of classroom integration you want. Whether you decide to select some of the materials to embed in a curriculum you already have, or go deep with the 170 page lesson plan The Good Project provides, I am pretty certain you can find something that will benefit your students.

I learned about The Good Project when the video, “Beyond the Science Club: A Good Project Dilemma” was tweeted. When I jumped down the rabbit hole, I realized some of my favorite old friends were down there – Harvard Graduate School of Education and Project Zero (also responsible for Visible Thinking Routines). In fact, they were the rabbits who created this fantastic hole I stumbled into.

In their words, “The Good Project promotes excellence, engagement, and ethics in education, preparing people to become good workers and good citizens who contribute to the overall well-being of society.” I don’t know about you, but I think we desperately need some conversations about those 3 E’s – excellence, engagement, and ethics. The Good Project gives you all the tools you need to do this with your students.

Though The Good Project’s resources are primarily created for secondary students, I could definitely see doing some of the activities and lessons with upper elementary and middle school – particularly gifted students. For example, I think the Value Sort activity would go well with the unit my 5th graders did on Character. If you are looking for specific ideas to use with your students, you can use the Activities Database. You can weave in ethical dilemmas into your social studies or science activities. (There are even a couple of interactive ones students can do online.)

To go deeper, I would suggest the Good Collaboration Toolkit or the Lesson Plans.

The Good Project does not tell students what to think, or what is right and wrong. It gives them space to do their own thinking about their values and what is important to them. With class discussions, it can help them to see different perspectives, and learn about the complexities of the decisions they make. The Good Project poses questions about very real-life decisions that we are likely to encounter so that students can take time to analyze the potential effects of different choices.

image from The Good Project Overview

App-Smashed Character Strength Floor Plans

Scan with the Aurasma app to see a video explanation. (You must be following the Hidden Forest Elementary channel.)
Scan with the Aurasma app to see a video explanation. (You must be following the Hidden Forest Elementary channel.)

Several years ago, I got a fabulous idea from a book called What’s On Your Mind? by Joel Anderson and Joan Brinkman.  One of the lessons recommends that gifted students create an “Eight Trait Floor Plan.”  The students are asked to think metaphorically about what a blueprint of their attributes might look like.  Which “rooms” would be the largest?  How many doors would each room have – and where would they lead?  The book gives many excellent questions to help students visualize this “House of Traits.”

I’ve used variations of this lesson with my GT 5th graders over the years.  Sometimes the students created the floorplans in MS Excel, sometimes on graph paper.  Generally a description accompanied it, whether typed or written. It’s been so interesting to see the creative ways students visualize their own attributes – from hidden rooms to indoor pools to closets with no doors.  The project is always insightful for me and for them. Last year, it was an excellent introduction to their Dream Team projects.

We were kind of cutting it close on time this year, so I gave the students graph paper instead of asking them to complete the floor plans on computers.  I directed them to the Periodic Table of Character Strengths to choose their traits.  Instead of adding paragraphs to the bottom that explained their floor plans, they were told they could use one of the creation apps on the iPad, such as: Tellagami, Puppet Pals, or ThingLink.  I promised the students who created videos that we could add some “Aurasma-tazz” by linking them with the Aurasma app.

One of the projects is pictured at the top of this post.  If you have the free Aurasma app, you can follow our channel (Hidden Forest Elementary), and view the Puppet Pals video that accompanies the floor plan by scanning the image above.  Or, you can view the video that I’ve embedded below.

The advantage of using the Aurasma app is that my student can take this project home, and her parents don’t have to go to a website to look for her video explanation.  All they have to do is scan the picture with Aurasma.

If you are not familiar with Aurasma, which is one of several augmented reality apps, here is a link to my page of Augmented Reality Resources.  This page includes links to tutorials, as well as other activities.

Why My Daughter Won’t Be a Teacher When She Grows Up

image from: http://tariqmcom.com/beautiful-quotes-on-success-the-success-is-not-key-to-happiness/
image from: http://tariqmcom.com/

My daughter, who is 11, has a pretty standard response prepared for people who ask her what she wants to be when she grows up.

“A teacher – or maybe an engineer,” she says.

I smile inside.  I smile because I think she says, “teacher” for my sake – which means that she: a.) sees how much I love my job and b.) doesn’t think it’s a bad aspiration.

If I really thought she would like to be a teacher some day, I would not discourage her.  Many of my colleagues disagree.  They have told me that they would never allow their own children to become teachers.  I understand their frustration and disillusionment.  It’s not an easy career by a long shot (but, really, what career is easy?) –  and it can be taxing both financially and emotionally.

My own teachers in high school registered disappointment, one by one, when I told them I had decided to pursue a career in education.  Despite the fact they had inspired me, some of them obviously felt themselves to be personal failures for not convincing me to go to medical or law school – or to become a college professor at the very least.

I was undaunted by their discouragement, and I’m sure my own daughter would be, as well.

No, my daughter will not be a teacher.  Not because I will prevent her – but because I suspect she doesn’t really want to be a teacher.  Unlike me, she never spent hours teaching her dolls and stuffed animals when she was in pre-school.  Her patience with children younger than her has never been exceedingly long.  And, she never goes out of her way to explain difficult concepts to others; in fact, she rolled her eyes when I asked her to explain how to play Flappy Bird.

She will not be a teacher because that is not her passion.  She may not see that yet, but that’s okay.

Could teaching become her passion one day?  Possibly.  If it does, I will whole-heartedly support her.  But I will also support her if she decides to become an artist, a rock star, an astronaut, or a stay-at-home mom.  If she is willing to put in the work and sacrifice to follow her dreams, who am I to stop her?

In my post on The Science of Character, I included this quote, “Instead of asking students what they want to be, we should be asking them who they want to be.”

I asked my daughter to look at the Periodic Table of Strengths on the site, and her goals for the future her are: creativity, enthusiasm, kindness, fairness, appreciation of beauty, and optimism.

If she becomes that person – and, truly, I feel she is already well on her way – then I will feel that we have both been successful.

Dream Team

Angela Maiers, an educator/consultant/writer whom I greatly admire, has mentioned on her blog the idea of having a “Dream Team” – a group of people who you would like to emulate.  In her book, The New Habitudes, she also mentions this, and offers a free reproducible here for conjuring up your personal Dream Team members.

I loved this idea, and mentioned it to my 5th graders, who also seemed excited about the concept.  Then I thought of a way they could present their Dream Teams to the class using their current favorite technology tool – the iPad.

dreamteam

The students chose 4 character traits that they believe to be the most important, and then 4 people from history who exhibited those traits.  After researching some specifics, they developed “Dream Team Talk Show Scripts” to use with the full version of Puppet Pals.  The full version has a cast of talk show characters, and also allows you to create your own puppets from photos.  (Puppet Pals 2 is even better – but we haven’t been able to upgrade yet!)

Here are the planning sheets we used:

Choosing My Dream Team

Design Your Dream Team Talk Show Script

The entire class is not finished yet, as the students need to rotate through our iPads, but you can see some of them on our class blog by clicking here.