This semester we were tasked with designing and completing a global collaborative project. With the many changes that have been happening in education due to COVID-19, things were modified from what the assignment originally entailed. For our project we were tasked to connect with another class to work together in completing some sort of task or work. After completing some research, I decided to go with the cardboard challenge. The global cardboard challenge happens every year, usually in October, where kids are tasked with using recyclable materials to create something new. This is a challenge that I have done every year with my students. We usually do ours in the Spring and then throw a family night for parents to come see the students work and play games. This year the event was cancelled, so I decided to change it to work in an online format.
After researching, I connected with a former colleague of mine who teaches in a different school district. We decided to collaborate on the project together in a way that would allow my 5th graders and her 2nd graders to share their work with each other. We agreed on a 3 week timeframe where students would get 1 week to plan, 1 to build, and 1 to reflect/explain. Students were directed with the constraints to create an art project, build a game or create something with only recyclable materials. Being in different grade levels, we both focused on different standards. In my class I focused on ISTE Student Standard 1c and 4, along with NGSS Engineering Design 3-5-ETS1-1. In second grade they focused on using the engineer design process. We decided students would turn in each phase to their teacher, and share their last phase with the partner classroom.
What Actually Happened
When introducing the challenge to students we created videos telling students what their task was and trying to pump up the activity. Each week my students were given an assignment on Flipgrid to share their progress. In second grade they worked through a step by step powerpoint. In the beginning I had a few students share or turn in a plan about what they wanted to do. As we continued through the different phases, we both found less and less participation. We both ended up with only 1 student completing the whole process. With so many stressors and changes going on, it was understandable that students had other things to focus on during this time.
What Went Well
Collaborating and planning with another teacher went really well. We had great conversations and bounced ideas off each other. We came up with ways for our students to share their work with each other, and have ideas we can use for the future.
What Was Difficult
The obvious difficulty was the lack of participation. I think there are a few reasons for this. One being, there is a lot going on right now in our society and the stress could be going to the students. Another being that this could be challenging for students to complete at home depending on if they have adult support and access to materials.
Changes for Next Time
The biggest change that I think would help with participation and engagement would be to complete this project in person at school. This way students could work together in group and combine resources. It would still allow them to share their challenge with students in other classes. If school does not resume in its normal approach, I do believe this project could be completed with some minor adjustments. One thing I would definitely do differently would be to tell students a few weeks ahead of time to start collecting and saving recyclable materials. If they knew to do this ahead of time, it would give them some preparation for the project and hopefully give them an array of items to choose from. Something else that I would do in the beginning phases of the project would be to give students a place where they could write down their plans to share those digitally, rather than assigning on Flipgrid. I was really excited to use the tool and looked forward to connecting with the second graders using it, but I found my students weren’t all comfortable using it. Of course I would leave it as an option, but with more choice I believe more students would participate.
Something else that I would do would have students work with the partner classroom in the brainstorming phase as well as sharing their final products. I think by brainstorming together, students would be more excited to complete the project. It would also allow them to brainstorm ideas with others which could help them pick a topic for themselves. This could be done synchronously or asynchronously.
With only two students completing the task from start to end I feel like the teachers got more takeaways during this experience. I do believe and hope that the students who completed the task and explained their thinking were able to see that materials can be repurposed for many different ways. I hoped that their big takeaway is that we don’t always have to go buy something new, but that we can use things that may be considered “trash” and turn it into treasure.