Projectopia: What is it and why?
Projectopia is an innovative way to teach multiage students from a "think tank" approach. In order to build relationships across grade levels and learn across disciplines, students and teachers would step out of their grade level or subject specific "boxes" and come together for authentic learning opportunities. Projectopia groups were formed with teacher's existing advisory classes and met every afternoon for two months. Students displayed their learning during a school wide exhibition at the conclusion of their project.
Choosing our project
After discussing options and answering surveys, students in my advisory showed an excitement about ocean and beach related topics. I presented the idea of learning how to surf and received a very positive response. Throughout the rest of our time together, our project morphed and changed according to student needs and motivations.
After emailing surf schools asking for free or donated lessons, we realized that we needed to raise a lot of money if we really wanted to do this. We needed $500 for an hour and a half lesson and $1000 for a three hour lesson. The students decided to sell food before and after school. They organized themselves into three groups and planned their snack shacks. Two of the groups sold after school and one sold before schools. Their efforts were rewarded and after many weeks of sales (and a small donation from parents), we had enough to attend both surf lessons.
Most students in my advisory class had never surfed before so it became clear right away that we needed to do some research in order to surf safely. Students selected topics that they were interested in learning more about such as types of surfboards, dangers in the water, and how different waves affect surfing. Students felt that books and the internet were useful in their search for information. They also sought out more detail about their specific topic as we invited experts in or visited sites off campus.
EXPERTS AND VISITS
Talking to experts and getting out of our classroom and onto the beach was an important part of our project. We invited many experts into our class such as:
Roger Caldwell: owner of Ocean Experience Surf School and Ocean Beach Surf and Skate
Frosty Hesson: surfing coach, author and inspiration for the movie Chasing Mavericks (2012)
Charlie Linnik: shortboard surfer and art teacher at HTM
Jennifer Sadoski: avid surfer and former surf instructor
Soren Solari: big wave surfer
Henry Teare: surfer and 8th grade student at HTM
The students and I were so excited to attend our first set of lessons at Surfari Surf School. I couldn't believe how easy some of the students made it look! About three weeks later, we took our second set of lessons with Ocean Experience Surf School. I got out there with the students this time. Surfing is a lot harder than it looks but so much fun.
Presenting our learning
Between our research, visitors, and experiences outside the classroom, we learned a lot about surfing. In order to teach others about surfing related topics, we created pieces of artwork that were beautiful but also informative. We used the California Surfing Museum as a model for turning our classroom into our own surfing museum.
Reflecting on life lessons
Throughout our two months together, the students and I continued to reflect on how surfing relates to life outside the water. We thought about the lessons we learned through the challenge of learning to surf. Each student chose the lesson most meaningful to them and created a scrapbook page explaining how the lesson related to their surfing experience and to their future.