If you had a million dollars…? Starting The Year With Project-Based Learning

As the new school year quickly approaches I am planning on picking up where I left off last year with a project that can be found at Hoonuit. This project focuses on math and technology integration.

The project is called, The Million Dollar Classroom and students are given a million dollars to design the classroom of their dreams. They must also design a spreadsheet and graph to display how they distributed the money. The math in this project mostly deals with whole number or decimal operations. The students do little of the math since they enter formulas into the spreadsheet and the calculations are done for them. However, what the students are exposed to is working with large amounts of money and determining the best way to spend it. This is something that is new to many of them and I heard many of them say repeatedly that they had money left over and didn’t know what to do with it. I laughed to myself at this because as a teacher I could have easily spent any remaining money they had in a matter of minutes. 

It might seem like a big task to take on a project like this in the beginning of the year, but my experience from last year showed me that this will help me establish the kind of atmosphere I want in my class. I want to establish a student-led classroom where they make choices about the work they do and how they do it. I also want to bring more communication and collaboration to the class by having them work on projects like this in groups.

I chose this project towards the end of the year as a way to provide some variety to the usual nonstop review we do before the end of grade tests. While the students were working, I took notes on what issues they had, how we solved them, and what I would do differently the next time. Below is an overview of what I did last year and what I plan on doing this year.

Million Dollar Classroom

Last Year

Individual – Students each did their own individual project

I chose to do it this way, so I could do math review with individual students or small groups. By having them each do individual projects, the review would not interfere they way it would if they did the project in groups.

Classroom Location – The classroom must be built in North Carolina.

Classroom Purchase – The classroom can be rented, bought, or built.

Teacher Salary – Teachers’ Salaries were based on North Carolina state averages. Students could chose to have more than one teacher or assistant to a class.

Class Size – Class sizes can be based on the North Carolina state averages or can be up to the discretion of the students. Many chose to make the class size well below the state average (8-10 students).

Final Presentations – Presentations were given in front of the class and school administration.

This Year

Group Work – Students will work in groups of 4 or 5

I want students to discuss and debate how they think the money should be spent. I think this will provide a real world aspect into how school budgets are discussed, debated, and voted for or against.

Classroom Location – Same as last year

Classroom Purchase – Same as last year

Teacher Salary – Same as last year

Class Size – Class sizes must be similar to the state average with only a difference of 2 students more or less than the average.

Final Presentations – In addition to their classmates and school administration, my principal and I have invited several city council members to speak to the students at the start of the project to give their insight on budgeting, voting, and how money is spent. We also plan on inviting them back to see some of the finished project presentations. As of today, August 8th, we have one council member that will be coming to speak in early September.

As I stated earlier, I hope this project will help to establish a more student-led classroom with a collaborative and respectful atmosphere.  I am very excited about bringing the community into the classroom by inviting members of city council and the board of education. I think this will provide the students with a real world connection and a greater understanding of the big picture when it comes to classrooms, schools, and school districts.