A good friend of mine, who has now been married for more than 30 years, used to use this expression whenever we saw a good looking woman: “It doesn’t matter where you go for your appetite, as long as you come home for dinner.”
The same holds true with your projects. Projects that you run in your classroom need to be your projects but it doesn’t matter where you go for your project ideas. Projects that are taken, fully intact, from someone else and then run in your class just won’t work the same. And your students will know that it isn’t your project.
So stop beating yourself up about using someone’s project idea. It’s OK. You can use the idea. Just make it your own. Have your entry event totally unique to how you want to start the project. And figure out how you want your project to end. Allowing students to pick their own end product means that, even if a group wants to do something that was an end product in the original project idea, your students have ownership in it.
Now when it comes to some of the scaffolding activities, in the original project, you may really like some of them. That’s OK. But, until you have run the activity you won’t know what could go wrong. What material isn’t listed that would really help. What time changes did the original teacher make when they ran it. Was it a “class period” activity and the original teacher was on a 90 minute block? Or, was it a “class period” activity for a 45 minute class and you have a 90 minute block? Work through the activity yourself (which should be your modus operandi anyway) to gauge the length of time needed.
Now that you’ve selected the project idea, you have your entry event, and you have determined how you will handle end products, it is time to really look at the theme of the project and see if there are any other things you might want to add or subtract to make it “your” project.
Hopefully you are starting to see that getting ideas from somewhere else is an incredible time saver BUT you still have to create your project. You still need to arrange your calendar with content, scaffolding, and assessments. I really like having someone’s project to manipulate into my own. What I present to my students may not even look at all like the original project except that the original content is there.
Remember, it doesn’t matter where you go for your project appetite, as long as you come back and create your own project meal. I know, bad statement. But I had to come back to my opening.
Where to get project ideas:
- Regional Education Centers in many states such as Texas, Ohio, and South Carolina may have links to resources. Transformation 2013 in Texas has good project ideas, for example.
- Edutopia has a whole section of their site devoted to Project Based learning.
- Curriki is a resource I sometimes forget. They have classroom activities that can easily be molded into a project idea.
- We Are Teachers is one I like to have in my pocket. Great resources and activities.
- Discovery Education has some great resources and is not always thought of as a place to come up with project ideas.
- Buck Institute for Education is the most obvious one for me but I thought I’d put it late on the list.
- Your local newspaper, a magazine (hard copy or online), or current events aren’t necessarily taking someone’s project idea, but there may be a problem to solve or a concept to explore and there’s your project.