The EAST classroom is very different from the traditional one where teachers dole out information and students attempt to memorize it. In EAST, students design and self-direct their own projects. EAST teacher-facilitators must complete special training in facilitating this form of project-based learning.
We thought it might be interesting to follow the progress of some EAST newbies throughout their first year of facilitating an EAST classroom. Paula Nixon of Bald Knob (Arkansas) Middle School gives us a peek behind the scenes.
Paula Nixon: Students in the EAST program at Bald Knob Middle School have been steadily working on trying to decide which projects are right for them. Several of my students have started on their service projects and seem to be enjoying what they are doing. I have some who are working with the elementary counselor and Rice Depot filling backpacks with food for underprivileged kids to take home on the weekends. Another group came up with the idea of “Pie in the Eye” to help bring in more canned goods for this program. They asked teachers if they would be willing to take a pie in the face if they received the most donations under their name. Fortunately, we have some teachers who are willing to do this! I have another group that is working with a few kindergarten teachers and helping students with sight words. They have made flash cards and found some educational games on the computer to help these students improve their letter/word identification.
At the beginning of the school year, we sent out a paper surveying our teachers’ needs on campus. Unfortunately, only a few have replied and we have helped them with various things. We are hoping to team up with some clubs or organizations as they get projects started.
This is really the first class that my students have been in where they have had to take the initiative to pursue what they are interested in. I must say that we have had some difficult days. There have been a few students who have wanted to do projects that were not realistic just yet. Finding and starting projects that are interesting to them has been a little overwhelming at times.
I have had my students make a PowerPoint presentation about themselves complete with action buttons and hyperlinks. It was amazing listening and watching them figure out how to insert an action button or a hyperlink. Some were so excited. They were good about helping others along the way as they completed this project. Currently we are working on a brochure of our town. They are researching to find facts and information about Bald Knob.
I would love to hear from other EAST facilitators about things that they do in their classroom in order to make it successful. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please email me about projects for 7th and 8th grade students and things that you do in your classroom when they are not working on a particular project. I would also love some advice about EAST night out! Thanks so much!!