Sometimes old projects can be repeated and sometimes they need a makeover. In the past we did a 12 week study of American foreign policy starting with the Spanish American War (SAW) and ending with Middle Eastern conflict today. It was too long and students could not see the relevance of the SAW part until the end. So this year we did one project combining SAW and 9/11. We also read Ender’s Game to tie it all together.
We have always struggled to bring relevance to SAW as it is obscure and not given much space in most classes. We believe that it is vital in showing the beginning of American policy of intervention around the world, often by imperialistic means. We had students explore whether the United States was motivated more by Manifest Destiny or Imperialism through out the past 100 years in specific interventions.
The final product was a monument as “Speaker for the Dead” (from Ender’s Game) where they had to represent American foreign policy from multiple viewpoints including a non-American view. They also needed to have symbolism reflected in their piece. Students were challenged to look at America as not always “good” or a “hero” but consider the complexity of our actions and realize that we have made both good and poor decisions through out our history.
Previously students made monuments only based on 9/11 and many of them looked similar. By giving them more options (yeah voice and choice!) we had better variety and deeper analysis from students. We are definitely happy with the results of these “recycled” projects. Sometimes we fail in our first attempt on PBL but often we just need to re-package it in a more student friendly way. Student voice and choice is always important to making this happen.
Do you re-use projects? How have you successfully (or unsuccessfully) recycled a project?
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I love the symbolism in the students’ projects–very thoughtful work. I always tried to re-use projects improving on them with each iteration as I reflected on what worked and what didn’t.