by Charity Moran Parsons
Over 10 years as an Educator + Lifelong Living & Learning = Passion for the Education of Black Males
During my career as a teacher, school development coach, and consultant, I have been able to witness the transformative power of Project Based Learning to connect students—especially black males—to their world. I lean heavily upon exploring the dynamics of power and connectedness within a classroom/school/community. Because of this intersection of passion and purpose, I founded iDoSchool.org, an organization dedicated to providing the lesson frames and thinkspace necessary to support educators as we craft learning experiences for our students that push the culture forward. I am a huge fan of all things Color Run and Louisiana! I strive to bring a little bit of both to each and every workshop with educators.
I was introduced to PBL while serving as a geometry teacher at Booker T. Washington New Tech High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. I had the honor of serving on the school’s year one transition team and co-teaching an integrated biology and geometry course—my mind was blown! The ways in which students interacted with the content, their peers, and their community were phenomenal, all due to this one shift in instructional practice and planning. Never before had I experienced such powerful collaboration and growth as a professional.
Think of your dream lesson...What would it include?
What would your students learn? What would you learn?
Who would visit the classroom? Where would students visit and explore?
What would students create? What sorts of questions would they pose?...
Project Based Learning inspires me because of its ability to harness in one classroom, or in one school, the collective of the community. One PBL project can literally incorporate every aspect of your dream lesson, while still attending to mandates and district level objectives. There’s a very practical beauty to the elegance of a Gold Standard Project. This beauty further exudes itself in student growth—academically, culturally, and socially. Dr. Ibrahim Seck once stated, “Education IS reparation; it is how we alleviate prejudices” and I agree wholeheartedly!
I will always choose Project Based Learning as my instructional delivery tool because of the immense amount of growth students experience in this learning environment. PBL is how we prepare students for a future we cannot foresee, and when leveraged appropriately, PBL has the power to dispel achievement disparities and empower ALL stakeholders to become lifelong learners.
A (New) Favorite Project
I really had a stellar time collaborating with teachers last summer to create a project entitled Olympic Protest. In Olympic Protest, students are challenged with the driving question: “How can we create an Olympic field day and plan a community event to inform our community of Olympic protests?”
The project is adaptable for all grade levels. Elementary students can work to plan their own field day events and secondary students can plan for partnering with an elementary school’s field day, encouraging school to school collaboration. In this project, history and physical education serve as anchors. Students investigate the history of both the ancient and modern Olympics as well as answer a call to revamp a local elementary school’s field day. I can’t wait to actually implement the PBL plan this semester and share with you my reflections. If you’re interested in how it’s going, feel free to Tweet me @iDoSchool.
Lesson Learned About Critique & Revision
In a second grade class, we decided to tackle the topic of habitats by taking the unit from the state’s pacing guide and converting it into a more relevant exploration for the students, entitled A Home for Everyone. The students were challenged to answer the driving question: “How can we recommend the best habitat for the new animal in our zoo?” You may be familiar with the video Austin’s Butterfly, in which a young boy learns the power of making multiple drafts to get to the best final product. In A Home for Everyone, I certainly learned the power of rehearsal (also known as Critique & Revision) when I had my first “oh no, these guys aren’t ready to present” moment.
Luckily, it was the mock presentation of results and students had one more day before finally presentations. I walked away from this project knowing first hand necessity for multiple drafts and rehearsals. To this day, I make sure to include a variety of reflection as well as critique and revision opportunities throughout the project plan and not just nearing the end. This not only gives the best final product, but it helps students see their own progress and cultivates a growth mindset.
My Work as a BIE Facilitator
Facilitating BIE professional development always feels like a beautiful work of art. I am always enamored with the wisdom, skill, and talent in every room I enter and I never leave a session in which I have not also learned alongside the participants. The goal is to always establish a space in which everyone in the room is learning, from the facilitator to the participant. And isn’t that what we want in our classrooms? It is truly an honor to be of service to diligent and reflective practitioners across the country.
Enjoy the process. This PBL ride can be an adventure! Challenge yourself to look for the connections between concepts within your lessons and seek out ways to help your students process the same connections. There’s magic in these moments; plan for them and protect the sacred think time they deserve. Let’s talk more about PBL, educating black males, and growth mindset @iDoSchool on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Chat with ya soon!