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Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Challenge Based Learning: Students Write a Grant to #EqualizeOurEd

My students are always asking me, "How come we have iPads and other classes don't?"

I reply, "I wrote a grant."

The inevitable questions are, "What's a grant?" and "What can you get with a grant?" and "How hard is it to write one?" and "Can I write one to get ______?"

Sooo...

In 2 weeks we will have finished our 12 units of the Everyday Math curriculum (Woooo! We did it all! Love it!), and we will have about an extra month to extend math learning. What to do? What to do? Ah ha! An awesome CBL (challenge based learning) project!

I have decided to have my students write a grant. Not just any grant. Our cycle is studying equity in education (we even have a hashtag - little used as of yet - but just you wait: #EqualizeOurEd). My teaching partners in SS and ELA are working on units about the history of education, current policy issues and some ideas for redefinition of the system. As the math teacher, I am going to supplement this by looking at school spending and finance. After looking at school budgets and per-student funding by zipcode, I began to wonder about fundraising schools do to augment these budgets. I was (and wasn't) shocked to find that the average dollar amount raised through parent donations or fundraisers in more affluent CPS schools (I polled about 11 schools... not exactly a scientifically sound number, nor indicative of what I'm sure is universally true... but a good starting point for my kids nonetheless) is $100,000!!! Wow! So I'm going to present this challenge to my kids:

Imagine our district decides to "equalize our ed" by giving all schools $100,000 to augment their budgets, regardless of parent financial situation and ability to fundraise... how should schools spend it to improve education? Write a grant proposal to share your idea.

Kids will have to:
- identify an essential issue in their school (by conducting peer, teacher and parent surveys, etc.)
- write a grant to propose the best idea to respond to this issue
- create a detailed budget using spreadsheet software (Numbers App) and equations to back this grant
- create a Keynote presentation to persuade "investors" that their grant idea is sound
- Here is a draft of the "grant" outline that I will present to my students.

Throughout the student-driven experience, my kids will blog their thoughts, reflections and ideas for the public to comment, support and inspire.

At the end of the project, peers will evaluate the grants and choose one to "fund". Following the project, we will reflect on the experience and decide if money is a possible lever to improve schools - or not? Or is it a lever in and of itself, or are there other factors? All of these conclusions will be driven by my 4th and 5th graders.

I have yet to begin... we will start on May 7th. I will post my unit plan on this blog once I'm done finalizing it... all of these ideas are still up in there air. I have some ideas that I think *could* be cool: i.e., kids walk around using QR codes to find out how much items in our room cost (after creating a "Price is Right" style spreadsheet in Numbers guessing their cost). As we progress, I will post more info on how it's going. Until then, I welcome feedback, ideas, etc!

Thanks, as always.

2 comments:

  1. So exciting, Jennie... I cannot wait to see what solutions your students come up with! Why stop at creating a grant plan that is hypothetical? I bet the students could actually create a real proposal and put into practice! Will be watching along eagerly as you embark on the journey!

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    1. Well, we are going to post the winning grant here and maybe some mysterious philanthropist will fund it? ;) Thanks Katie!

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