Designing Projects that Engage the Community and Students

On Saturday morning I had the most inspirational Tweet Meet as the guest of @TeamMask, a group of Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts who teamed up to host chats about innovation in education.  I was honored to be invited as their guest and spoke to teachers and educators from around the world about my  approach to designing projects.  I had a great deal to say but just kept running out of characters :0  So I told the group I would write a blog about my approach to designing these types of project based learning activities that engage community and students including examples.

Many educators on the tweet meet asked for examples of my application of instructional design and project based learning to my classes.  This blog is meant to show sample projects in an effort to bring our chat to life. I hope it is helpful.

The topic for our tweet meet was Designing Projects that Engage the Community and Students.  Below I have described some of my projects and linked documents as well as videos and evaluation forms.  I hope this helps provide teachers examples of how to employ my 360 degree model.  I will write a blog on how to design step by step in the near future and I am building a model to show process in a more visual way.  Enjoy!

CEO- Collaborative Enterprising Opportunity:  

~Click here to see video on YouTube

CEO is a project I ran when I taught Entrepreneurship.  A major requirement of Entrepreneurship is for students to write a full business plan.  I decided to employ the help of the community, nationally, for this project.  My students were paired with business owners from New York to California and Skyped weekly for a period of 5 weeks to discuss progress on student written business plans.  Students wrote the plans, and their executive mentor evaluated the section written.  For example, week 3 the mentors evaluated phase 3 of the business plan and then met with the students on Skype to provide live feedback about how to improve the plan.  The capstone of this program was to have local entrepreneurs come into the classroom and listen to the students “pitch” their companies.  See the link to a video I made about the project above.

Innovative Entrepreneurs Project:  


Students in Career and Financial Management begin their Entrepreneurship unit by inventing a new product to improve on an existing product.  Students then pitch the idea to the entire classroom who question their peers Shark Tank style.  I encourage students to use the elevator pitch style for pitching.  They are polite but also are aware that there is a competitive aspect to this project.  The winner of this pitch will be the President of our student run company.  The company we run is the Business Simulation Project listed below.  A new reward I am implementing is an “Administrator for the Day” component.  The winning partnership or sole proprietor will have the opportunity to job shadow with one of our Vice Principals.  I enjoy involving our administration as much as possible when working on large scale projects as it gives administrators the unique opportunity to engage on a very positive level with the students.  The students feel empowered as well.

Mock Interview Project:  


Students in Career and Financial Management complete a mock interview with me as the interviewer.  I post jobs as they relate to the Innovative Entrepreneur Project winning invention to be run as a business simulation.  Typically I create four departments: leadership, marketing, finance, and research and development.  Students interview and are HIRED!

Business Simulation with Shark Tank capstone:  




After being hired into our student run corporation, we begin working in our departments for about five weeks.  The project is integrated into the curriculum.  Click here to see video of students having a weekly department head meeting.  For the simulation, the culminating activity is to present a request for proposal, Shark Tank style, to a panel of investors.  The “investors” include business leaders, administrators, guidance counselors, and teachers.  A rating scale with comments is used to evaluate each department.  The scale has 5 levels.  Level 5 = Yes I would invest and the scale graduates down to level 1= investment would not be considered.

Feedback from a diverse authentic audience such as this is a powerful tool that will not only provide evaluation, but a lasting impression on students.  When members of the school and business community participate in the evaluation process, students gain a sense of validity to their learning process side by side within their community. Suddenly,  partnerships are being developed and professional relationships are initiated. Confidence and self actualization development is palpable during the process.  Students often say “the Superintendent is coming to see me?”  “The business person is going to take time out of his day to evaluate me?”  The answer is yes and they want to!  We all want to help students grow.  Students feel honored and truly enjoy the experience of being evaluated by someone outside of the classroom teacher.

THE PITCH Lesson:  


For the capstone of the Business Simulation I have students pitch the idea to a panel of investors as talked about in the simulation project described above.  Department by department, students come to the front of the room and pitch their section of the RFP to the investors (see youtube).  This process is both intimidating and exciting for students.  They gain confidence, something that is extremely difficult to assess.  Click here for YouTube of part of this years pitch to investors.

3 Part Series with Guest, Award Winning Lawyer, Mitch Jackson:  

~Click here to see a portion of video from our first meeting with Mitch



Business Law students have been collaborating with Trial Lawyer, Mitch Jackson for the last two years.  This year, I decided to have students develop a BLOG series that they will share out with Mitch. We met once in October during Skypeathon and will meet again in February.  He spoke to the students about the reality of being a trial lawyer and gave them great social networking advice.  He will meet with the students next time and provide authentic feedback via Skype regarding the development of their BLOGS.  Links to blog assignments are above.  I think getting students writing is important in an effort to have a co-curricular project.

Students Undercover Project:


The students undercover project is one where I have students research one company and determine the benefits of working at their chosen company.  Students then determine if they would like to work there in the end by presenting the company to the class.  I show a quick video of Undercover Boss to prepare for the project after providing instruction on all aspects to look for in a job and career.

FM Talks:

As the final project for Career and Financial Management I have students present a Ted style talk to the class.  The theme is “students inspiring students to get hired.” Talks are video taped and loaded to my page.  See samples by clicking here.

I truly hope that all of these examples are helpful to educators looking to embrace the project based, personalized learning, or other new methods currently showing great results.  Please get in touch if you would like more information.  As always, have an inspired day!


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