Dumpster Projects

I’ve been teaching for 25 years, so I should be used to seeing student projects dumped in the trash, but this time, it’s affected me differently, and I don’t know why. My seniors completed a project inspired by Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. It was different this year because I decided to let the students decide what they’d choose for their project.  I’m the one that usually provides project choices, but this year I had them “pitch a proposal.”  The parameters were that the project had to be hands-on. They had to be 3-D not the usual poster one-and-done.  It was challenging for many students.  As seniors, I think many of them forgot how to work with their hands in this way.  So today I had them dismantle their projects only if they had borrowed my Legos or clay.  I was dreading what would happen next.  One student made the loudest noise as he fairly stomped on his project. I don’t know if any of the students brought their projects home. But this is what I found bursting from the trashcans:

     I think I remember reading about a book titled, “No More Dumpster Projects.”  Clearly I need to read this book. Why did I think that the students would want to keep their projects? I think I was more invested in the projects than they were.  How can I instill more pride and ownership in my students? Once the get to be seniors, is it too late? 

     Many of my students attending technical CTE classes starting in their junior year. They travel to a CTE school about 15 minutes away.  There, they can sign up for classes such as welding, childcare, computers, carpentry, and automotives.  I know that these hands-on classes are highly motivating, and I’ve often been puzzled as to how I can establish and nurture that same excitement in my English classes. How can I make the learning of English–reading, writing, listening, speaking–hands-on? When I learned about the maker movement this summer, I thought, This is it! This is how I can get the kids up and out of their seats, and excited about English.  

     I know I’ve just started on the makerspace journey, but seeing these projects in the trash today just set me back a bit.  I’m a bit discouraged, but I will continue to try to bring makerspace and maker station ideas to my high school English students. 

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