How to Design a City Project for Middle School

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Middle school students love hands-on learning, and urban environments are rife with project ideas. Beginning with the end in mind is an important consideration when designing a project, because when you know where you want your kids to end up, you’ll have an idea of where to begin. Development of a goal defining what students should be able to do as a result is a good starting point.

Brainstorm project ideas with a team of teachers--preferably a teacher to represent each of four core content areas to include math, science, social studies and language arts. Write the ideas on a semantic map.

Brainstorm project ideas with the students involved. Write these ideas on a semantic map.

Combine teacher and student ideas onto one semantic map. Condense all ideas into three project ideas that students can vote on.

Instruct students to vote on one of the three project ideas. The idea with the most votes will become the project.

Develop three project goals in collaboration with the team of teachers, considering what they want students to know and be able to do as a result of the city project. Share these ideas with students.

Instruct students to develop one or two individual goals based on the project goals. For example, if the project goal is for students to learn about the value of community service, the student's goal might be to know what kind of community service is best for his community.

Develop a safety plan. If the project involves a field trip. arrange for one chaperon to oversee four to five students, taking attendance at regular intervals using attendance rosters. A signed permission slip will be needed for field trips, staying after school, or using alternative transportation, such as carpooling or riding on a different bus.

  • When brainstorming ideas with teachers and students, consider city resources such as parks, recreation centers, museums, community gardens, not-for-profit institutions, environmental centers and so forth.

Writing since 1984, Susan Deschel just published "Peer Coaching for Adolescent Writers" through Corwin Press, a handbook for teachers. Deschel has a bachelor's degree in creative writing, master's in education, and is currently working on her doctorate in curriculum and instruction. She writes in other genres, including fiction and poetry.