Fourth Graders Create Personalized Exploration Study Projects

Published: December 07, 2018 at 07:30 am


All fourth grade elementary school students in the district work on creating personalized exploration projects, and one class at Hawley Elementary School recently completed its projects.

In a teaching collaboration between the class’s teacher, the library/media specialist, and the school’s teacher of the gifted, students pick a topic to study and complete research and projects. At Hawley, Teacher of the Gifted Dr Sherry Earle welcomed students in fourth grade teacher Michael Wight’s class on November 20 to the school’s library for a day of finalizing projects and presentations.

Students who were ready to present their projects shared demonstrations, presentations, and sometimes videos. Library/media specialist Erika Carlson clicked through PowerPoint slides for students with presentations.

An explanation about the project sent home to parents reads, “Wonderful things can happen when students share their interests with one another. Personalized exploration provides an opportunity for our students to do just that. Based on the practice at Google to allow their employees to spend 20 percent of their working hours pursuing their own interests, schools throughout the country are making time for students to identify a passion, research that topic, and create a presentation to share with their peers. These programs may be known as 20 Time, Genius Hour, Passion Project, and Innovation Hour, among other names, but they share some common ideas.”

The explanation also shares that all fourth grade students in the district participate in the projects. Groups meet once a week for six weeks. After students identify an area of interest, they are taught research skills.

As part of learning how to conduct research, Ms Carlson said the Hawley fourth graders learn about safe search engines online, how to quote and cite sources, and about copyright. As part of the project, the students were each tasked with creating a works cited page.

The personalized exploration projects have been happening in the district for multiple years. Since the projects began, Dr Earle said she has anecdotally noticed better research being conducted by students, thanks to the district-wide program.

The Hawley students studied topics like how many galaxies there are, how electricity works, how a television works, why there is war, and many more.

“I am so excited that you picked so many wonderful topics,” said Dr Earle.

Student Hailey Gilman was the first to present on November 20. She shared a PowerPoint presentation and a video about her project on making slime, which she said is fun to play with and helps people de-stress. Then student Finnigan Clancy spoke about his research project, which focused on learning about Albert Einstein’s brain.

Student Andrew Smiley said he enjoyed researching how the alphabet was made.

“There’s a lot of stuff you can find,” said Andrew about researching.

Student Evan DePasquale studied tornadoes, and he created a simulation by joining two soda bottles together. Evan also created a video about tornadoes as part of his project.

After researching how the internet works, student Emma Carley said she thinks it is important for everyone to understand how lasting their digital “footprint” is.

Mr Wight said all of the projects his students created this year are “really impressive.”

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