Recently I overheard a conversation among parents of elementary students. They were talking about the latest student projects their children had been assigned. "I hate school projects!" said one mom. "I know!" agreed another, "They should really just call them 'family projects' since the parents have to do so much of the work." Inwardly I sighed, knowing that exact feeling, having felt it myself before.
I have been impressed with several teachers with whom I've had the pleasure of collaborating on research projects recently. Instead of sending a research project assignment home for their 2nd, 3rd and 5th grade students to do entirely outside of school, these three teachers collaborated (individually) with the school media specialist (and her intern... that would be me). Together we set goals of what we would like the students to learn and planned a series of lessons on information skills within the authentic context of the student projects. As a result, students learned how to locate and use appropriate library books for their topics as well as links to informative articles through the school website. They were then able to use these links both at school and at home to complete their project. Teachers were pleased with how well students synthesized the information and how they chose to share their results. Students were excited to share their findings because they chose their own animal to research or topic from a list provided by the teacher. In the end, these students learned life skills that they can apply to future information gathering tasks.