Project-based Lesson in History
Taking a Lesson to Market
Posted on 06/07/2018
Ridgetop Students

The seventh grader cautiously entered the conference room. She carried a tri-fold board, a plastic bag of cards and a handful of blue report folders.

In a nod to entrepreneur reality show “Shark Tank,” the student, Cynthia, handed folders to two business leaders and her teacher/corporate executive. She began her product pitch. Cynthia’s product was “Resettling: The family friendly board game” for ages 8+. Tagline: “Can you survive the Trail of Tears?” 

Her classmates had created similar activities as part of a history lesson on the Westward expansion. 

New School

“Students had an option of old vs. new school,” Ridgetop Middle teacher DJ Sweet explained. 

Sweet partners with teacher Jessica Bender. For this lesson, students could choose Sweet’s class for a “new school” project-based option or go to Bender’s for a more traditional lecture, textbook and quiz route. 

“In the ‘old’ school, you may read a play,” Sweet said. “In the ‘new’ school, you write the play.”

Students were tasked with creating kid-friendly educational activities that they would have to pitch to business leaders, then test with a group of third, fourth and fifth graders from Silver Ridge Elementary. Along the way, they also got pitching tips via an online chat with a Groupon executive.

 Student products included Oregon Trail-like board games, video games, a play, food and scripts for animatronic characters.

Cynthia presents to business leadersThe Pitch

Back at the “Shark Tank,” Cynthia explained her “Resettling” game to Sweet, Mike Walton, of Kitsap Public Facilities District, and Kristal Baker, owner and CEO of Express Employment Professionals.

“It’s an unusual subject for a game,” Walton commented. They talked about the educational value of the game, targeting older students, adding more action spots to the game board.

Baker offered tips on presenting, including memorizing a habitual introduction that helps put her at ease during any presentation.

“I still get nervous!” Baker confided.

Focus Group

RMS students wrote and performed a playIn the following week, Cynthia incorporated some of their suggestions, such as adding action spaces and using natural materials for game pieces. “I also used it as inspiration for new ideas,” she said. 

Then, it was show time. 

Sweet explained the project to the focus group of Silver Ridge students. “What you tell me is going to help determine their grade.” Elementary eyes widened. “So it’s a very important responsibility.”

 Cynthia stood next to her game as a dozen Silver Ridge students entered the room. She watched with pride as the students brought her game to life. 

 “I made that, I taught them that,” she thought. The Silver Ridge students recommended adding facts to blanks spaces. If Cynthia took the game to a real-life market, she’d probably do that.

 “I like creating something with my knowledge instead of just answering questions,” she said.