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Make it Real. Make it Relevant. Make an Impact.

Mission Possible: the Model Classroom   

           Mission Possible: the Model Classroom from Brian H. Burnett on Vimeo.
Since 2010, the Pearson Foundation's New Learning Institute has sponsored the Model Classroom Program: a program that works directly with Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) State Teacher of the Year alumni to implement projects with youth. The Model Classroom Program aims to create examples of best classroom practices, particularly in the creative application of new media tools and practices.


Model Classroom was a three year program sponsored by the New Learning Institute, a project of the Pearson Foundation. As a community of educators, Model Classroom supported teachers in developing strategies to extend and recognize the learning that takes place outside the classroom, encouraging educators to ask students to be creative problem solvers, sensibly deploy digital media, and embrace civic engagement as a pathway to becoming ingenious and resourceful 21st century learners. Over 400 teachers participated in professional development workshops led by Model Classroom, and over 50 student projects were implemented through the program.

Watch the Mission Possible video.

3 Year Report

Read More in our Model Classroom 3 Year Report.

Professional Development Model: During a Model Classroom workshop teachers participated in a set of missions that took them out into the community so that they could experience the firsthand excitement of discovering opportunities for learning - much like their students would. Teachers were invited to carefully examine and describe their own teaching practice, then consider how that practice would change if their students were required to identify and develop solutions to authentic problems in their communities. What resources would they bring to bear? Would they partner with community organizations or experts? How would they incorporate today’s digital technologies and social networks? How would they use the greater context of addressing these real world problems to cultivate critical thinking habits as well as reinforce reading, math and other fundamental skills?

Project Support: Unlike other professional development, the Model Classroom program encouraged educators to continue to work and communicate with the New Learning Institute. NLI provided program support, documentation and shared the best practices that educators developed while implementing their projects.

The Model Classroom Team

Tiffany Brian Jane

Tiffany McGettigan initiated the Model Classroom Program based on the need to support teachers implementing project-based learning. As a program manager Tiffany designed professional development workshops and long-term programs, developed planning tools and resources to support project implementation, and facilitated project planning conversations with classroom educators. Tiffany enjoys the challenge of helping educators embrace student-driven and project-based approaches. She’s most proud of her work designing ongoing Professional Development for teachers in coastal Oregon and the D33 workshop, a program that transformed a classroom project into a workshop challenging teachers to find opportunities for their students to take action on issues in Detroit.


Brian Burnett worked with the Pearson Foundation 2006 to 2014 as a project lead for many New Learning Institute digital media programs designing, facilitating and supporting student-centered, problem-based learning programs that integrate technology into the classroom in real and relevant ways. Some of Brian’s key projects include Cathy Davis Hayes’ cross-curricular Cultural Vibrations project, Chris Poulos’ Museo del Barrio project, Donna Dubois’ Eugene Oregon Historical Project, Elizabeth Firnkes’ interfaith Middletopia project, and the Detroit 1933-2033 summer PD workshops. He gained a new appreciation and understanding working with educators around the country, experiencing first hand the challenges they face every day, their creativity and passion they invest for the well-being of their students.

Brian Burnett - Twitter | LinkedIn
Jane Drozd worked as a Digital Media Specialist for the Pearson Foundation’s New Learning Institute (NLI). In this role Jane supported teachers and teens in planning and implementing projects both inside and outside of the classroom and provided design for documenting and sharing their work. As part of the Model Classroom, Jane created and maintained the Model Classroom website, designed the three year report and supported many projects between 2011 to 2013. Some of her favorite moments include visiting rural Wyoming to work with students on creating art from their neighborhood trash pick-up which inspired a campus-wide recycling program and supporting teachers in Kansas who designed a project to engage and motivate students to read and write purposefully.

Jane Drozd -


Project MASH PBL Toolkit

Problem-Based Learning Toolkit

The Project MASH Problem-based Learning Toolkit is based on the Model Classroom approach: Make it Real, Make it Relevant, Make an Impact.



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‹‹ Return to Main

The Model Classroom was a three-year program of the New Learning Institute,
sponsored by the Pearson Foundation.

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  • 2010 - 2011
  • 2011 - 2012
  • 2012 - 2013
  • School-Based

2010-2011 Model Classroom Projects

“This is the kind of learning teachers dream of, and for me, has literally changed my practice.” 

- Jeanne Muzi, 1st Grade teacher New Jersey
2010 - 2011 marked the beginning of the Model Classroom. An offshoot of the Mobile Learning Institute at the Smithsonian (MLI-SI) and the 2010 Teacher of the Year workshops, Model Classroom began with the intention of supporting teachers in implementing submitted lesson plans. The first cohort was small, made up of four lead teachers mainly on the East Coast. 

2010 Workshop Approach

The early relationship with the Smithsonian and our larger organizational focus on mobile technology resulted in workshops emphasizing museum practices and mobile technology. Submitted lesson plans reflected this confluence. 

2010 - 2011 School-Year Program

While the initial school year support emphasized educational technology, the first teaching cohort was instrumental in shaping a program based on a practice rooted in the belief that learning can happen anywhere at anytime and that students are most engaged when work has a real purpose and audience. Year One participant Jeanne Muzi reflected “This is the kind of learning teachers dream of, and for me, has literally changed my practice.” Moving past 2010-2011 the workshop and professional development model for Model Classroom was significantly altered to emphasize these larger integrated practices, rather than focus on technology.


“Cultural Vibrations”

6th Grade Cross-Curricular

Teacher:  Cathy Davis Hayes, Mary Chisholm, Meg Shideler, Kristin Sackal, and Amy Budd)
School: Oakland Beach Elementary School, Warwick, Rhode Island (Demographics: Urban, 52% Free & Reduced Lunch, 0% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  6 - 8 Weeks

Challenge:  Students create instruments from found or recycled objects, then work together to compose a musical ensemble for a public performance.

Description:  This cross curricular unit began with an investigation of musical instruments from the perspective of function, design, and cultural purpose. After these initial investigations, students took on the role of musical creators by creating their own instruments using found or recycled materials. The instruments' decorative elements reflect students’ cultural interests such as favorite sports and teams, musical artists, movies and books, video games and technology devices. Students worked collaboratively to create and perform in a musical ensemble with their created instruments. 

Outcome: Cathy reports that the teachers working together on Cultural Vibrations “learned a lot from the process and were able to implement improved future project and inquiry based units in subsequent school years.” 

Teachers also shared that this project gave students new opportunities to shine. “This project has let students who aren't really the ‘superstars’ shine. It has allowed the ‘quiet’ students to be noticed…and become leaders. In addition they are now motivated to come to school everyday because they know others are depending on them." 

Press: Warwick
Oakland Beach School uses social network to propel class projects
Oakland Beach students learn teamwork through technology



“Museo del Barrio”

High School Spanish

Teacher:  Chris Poulos
School:  Joel Barlow High School; Redding, Connecticut (Demographics: Suburban, 2% Free & Reduced Lunch, 0% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  3 - 4 Weeks

Challenge:  Students create a Spanish-language guide for a local museum. 

Description:  How might learning Spanish be made more immersive, real-world and relevant? This project challenged students to apply their Spanish language abilities to a real challenge: creating an interpretive tour that museum visitors could experience both in-person and online. Utilizing local museum resources through El Museo del Barrio, High School teacher Chris Poulos challenged his advanced Spanish students to develop a Spanish language interpretive tour which would allow visitors to experience the museum onsite and online. Students explored the Museo del Barrio collection and analyzed individual art objects. Importantly, the museum was involved in every step of the process and the students were expected to treat El Museo del Barrio as their “client.” El Museo del Barrio staff worked with the students through all project phases, communicating with students prior to their museum visit, working with the students on site, and providing feedback for the students’ final work. 

Outcome:  As a result of this project, students produced a website and a QR Coded Visitor Experience Guide. Teacher Chris Poulos reflected: “Levels of engagement, interest, and student performance have never been higher. Teachers and administrators are rethinking teaching methodologies and classroom practice. This [project] is the type of paradigm shift in teaching and learning that needs to happen in America's classrooms.”



“Sculpture Drama Dialogue”

1st Grade

Teacher:  Jeanne Muzi
School:  Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey (Demographics: Suburban, 15% Free & Reduced Lunch, <3% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  5 Weeks

Challenge:  First Grade Students give voice to art by creating and producing stories based on animal sculptures.

Description:  In any story, dialogue plays an important role. Dialogue brings characters to life and makes a story interesting. Learning how to write dialogue correctly takes time, practice and an understanding of why a character talks in a certain way. This unit challenged young writers to use their creativity to give voice to animal sculptures. Students began with a virtual field trip to the Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden to analyze three different animal sculptures. Students then worked in groups to brainstorm ideas, craft scripts, plan storyboards and finally, created movies or animations for a culminating Film Festival. 

Outcome: “My students (only six and seven years old) planned, designed, created, reflected and celebrated their work all the while using new media tools, but most important cultivating the highest level of thinking skills. I witnessed the possibilities present in all classrooms where all students can learn to collaborate, innovate, problem solve and creatively express themselves while integrating technology… This is the kind of learning teachers dream of, and for me, has literally changed my practice.” -Jeanne Muzi 

Completing this project planted the seeds for Jeanne to implement much larger and impactful projects. During a second summer workshop she wrote a plan for a school-wide environmental action project called "Streamkeepers." After her school principal began a sister school relationship with an elementary school in Taiwan, the opportunity developed for students to share, compare and present their Streamkeeper findings globally. Every first grader works on Streamkeepers by partnering with a local scientist, allowing students take on the role of scientists, ecologists and environmentalists monitoring and tracking information on a nearby stream. 2nd and 3rd grade Streamkeepers alum continue to meet after school. As part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco Schools USA Program, Jeanne and her colleagues established a larger program for Benjamin Franklin Elementary, giving every grade level a different focus working towards continued school greening efforts. - Press: New York Times Learning Network. 

Additionally, the use of digital media introduced tools such as wikis, blogging and video to both students and teachers, resulting in teachers’ increased incorporation of tools for creative learning and as a means of assessment. Digital media enabled families to see student work and provide online support and feedback.


“Invention Convention”

6th - 8th Grades

Teacher:  June Teisan
School:  Harper Woods Middle School; Harper Woods, Michigan (Demographics: Suburban Detroit, 95% Free & Reduced Lunch, <1% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  4 Weeks

Challenge:  Students design their own invention to be shared at an Invention Convention.

Description:  Imagine. Inspire. Innovate. It has been said that “we stand on the shoulders of giants” creating advances in society as we improve the work of prior innovators. What medical marvels, engineering exemplars or agricultural advances might be fostered if we encourage inquiry? The “Invention Convention” stimulated student curiosity and imagination through investigations into the history of inventions and a hands-on engagement designing their own project. In completing their projects, students selected one of these options: interview an inventor, dissect an invention, document a day sans inventions, or create a working Rube Goldberg-type structure to present as a website or documentary. 

Outcome:  “Once my administrators and community saw the student energy and success… I was able to integrate them across the grade level and around our district. I’ve been able to present at state and national STEM conferences… and the overwhelming response is, ‘We want to do this with and FOR our students too."
- June Teisan

June continues implementing projects through a special course called “Future Think”. The 2011-12 school-year introduced a year long Water Initiative Project, a runner-up for the Microsoft Partners in Education award, which got students actively involved in water pollution research and stewardship of Lake Michigan. In 2012-13 June implemented “Detroit 1933-2033” which became the foundation for a 2013 Model Classroom PD at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

‹‹ Return to Main

The Model Classroom was a three-year program of the New Learning Institute, sponsored by the Pearson Foundation.

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2011-2012 Model Classroom Projects

“I literally saw these kids grow as people, not just as students.”

- Justin Zobrosky, 6th Grade teacher, South Bend, Indiana 

The 2011-2012 program is defined by a shift in workshop pedagogy, resulting in projects more focused on real world problems and students’ schools and communities. Technology integration remained a component of all projects, and focus for a few. The project load also tripled, with twelve projects spread across the United States. 

2011 Workshop Approach

The summer workshop model changed to emphasize the idea that learning happens everywhere. Called “Mission Possible” each workshop day presented a challenge that teachers had to collaboratively solve using local resources, museum experts, people, and a variety of mobile and digital tools. Resulting projects utilized local problems and opportunities as well as action-oriented and student driven work. This shift towards civic engagement is evident from project titles. 

Teacher Audience

The 2011-2012 audience was dominated by State Teacher of the Year award winners, as a result of their attendance at the summer workshops. At the school-year implementation level, however, many of these teachers acted as mentors by pulling in entire grade levels or resource teachers to collaborate in the project. As a result, the impacts went beyond the workshop audience, notably changing the practice of a first-year teacher in South Bend, Indiana and two fifth grade team-teachers in Shawnee, Kansas. 

2011-2012 School-Year Program

The Model Classroom’s consulting model shifted to be less high-touch. Pedagogy was a bigger focus than technology. While several teachers received on-site support from the MC team, many teachers were supported virtually through phone calls, Skype, and shared documents.

"Caring Crew: Day of Caring"

3rd Grade

Teacher:  Lucy Popson
School:  Walter Douglas Elementary School; Tuscon, Arizona (Demographics: Urban, 74% Free & Reduced Lunch, 37% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  Year Long

Challenge:  Students worked cooperatively in a “Caring Crew” to address problems including trash on the school grounds and homeless animals in their community. 

Description:  Lucy's students are primarily 1st generation Americans. Many face serious challenges including parents who have been deported or imprisoned. This project sought to provide a space for the students to explore their identities, find pride in their backgrounds, build connections with each other, develop empathy for their larger classroom and community, and ultimately make a difference. Using an online collaborative platform for sharing and communicating allowed students to improve their literacy skills and encouraged the participation of non-English speaking/ low literacy level family members. Throughout the school year students participated in ongoing campus clean-ups and fundraising efforts for the local Humane Society. Culminating in a Day of Caring at the school, students presented various ways to contribute to the betterment of the school and to show that they care.

Outcome: “The students' responses were overwhelmingly positive. Without hesitation the students concluded that the reason why the Caring Crew met its goal was because they worked as a team. In addition, they stated that before participating in the Caring Crew projects they did not know they could make a difference, and mentioned they wanted the Caring Crew to continue.”

-Lucy Popson

The Caring Crew has become a part of Lucy’s teaching practice. Students entering her class now know that they will be carrying on the tradition of taking care of their school and community. As this project continues, Lucy pushes her own practice to give students more voice and choice and bigger opportunities for making an impact, such as the creation of a school garden during the 2012-2013 school year.

"The Changed Landscape:
Documentation of Hurricane Irene"

4th Grade

Teacher:  Jennifer Harper
School:  Cavendish Town Elementary School; Cavendish, Vermont (Demographics: Rural, 45% Free & Reduced Lunch, 0% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  4 Months (1-hour block per day) 

Challenge:  Document a natural disaster by collecting the community’s stories and photos for a student-designed website.

Description:  In the fall of 2012 Cavendish, Vermont was severely impacted by Tropical Storm Irene. Every road in the community was damaged and many families were left stranded for weeks. After viewing their town’s documentation of a similar event in 1927, the students took on the role of historian and began thinking about how they could document the 2012 storm. They decided to create a website to capture the 2012 flood, comparing and contrasting the two events. This included collecting documents, interviewing community members, and creating a website that encouraged further participation and contributions from the community. Students brainstormed possible website designs and needs; decided on tasks, teams and roles-- including photographers, composers, and web designers-- then worked together to complete a website for their community. The Cavendish Historical Society provided 1927 documents and photos for the students to scan and upload. Students wrote letters to the Governor, the American Red Cross, the Proctorsville Fire Department, the Cavendish Historical Society, and the National Guard to collect additional pictures and stories for our website. Historians also came in several times to help caption pictures and guide students on what would be helpful to have on the website. Students presented their work at the school’s Art Night, and their final website was also shared at the Cavendish Historical Society. 

Outcome:   Website: 

“In my opinion there is nothing more powerful than having students work on a project that makes a difference for the community they live in. Students were engaged in an authentic project that would be helpful to future generations, and most importantly, they were active learners and thinkers through the whole process. The Cavendish Historical Society said, ‘When the National Guard arrived in Cavendish within a few days of Irene, one of the things they were interested in seeing were the photographs and any documentation from 1927. Unfortunately, we know that Cavendish in future years will again sustain damage from flooding. This time, thanks to your efforts in developing the website, those involved in recovery, will have considerable information, far more than what we had for 1927, at their disposal and in a format that is easily accessible and useable.’”

- Jennifer Harper

“Duck Print Eugene Historical Project”

4th & 5th Grades

Teacher:  Donna Dubois
School:  Camas Ridge Community School; Eugene, Oregon (Demographics: Suburban, 38% Free & Reduced Lunch, <3% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  One year; with some continuation as placards are installed Challenge Design a city tour that honors Eugene’s history and celebrates its 150th birthday. 

Description:   How can a city’s history be preserved for generations to come? Donna Dubois challenged her 4th and 5th grade students to explore the possibilities, but Donna never imagined the traction it would grab from the Eugene community. Dubois’ students selected 20 downtown sites, researched their historical significance, tracked down and vetted old photos, then wrote a script and produced voice recordings that tell a succinct story of the city. When Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy showed up to learn more about it, she realized this wasn’t any ordinary assignment. As a result, Mayor Piercy pulled multiple city officials and small businesses together who wanted to be involved. As a result of this city-wide collaboration, special signage will be placed at each landmark. Each sign will include a unique scannable QR code linking to the students’ productions. The city began the permanent installation of the tour at an official ribbon cutting in May 2013. 

Outcome:  YouTube Playlist of Duck Print Project (includes examples of final videos and production in process) Duck Print Celebration Ceremony video (Friday, May 10, 2013 at Camas Ridge Community School) 

“It felt to me like our whole class was part of this thing and it felt really special that we were the ones who were able to do it,”

- McKenzie Carrier, 5th grade student involved in project

"It is important for students to participate in real-world projects, collaborating with experts, and contributing positively to the community in which they live. The Duck Print Project integrates each of the essential skills needed for our students of today to be prepared for the world of tomorrow."

- Donna Dubois

"Read. Write. Share!"

5th Grade

Teachers:  Jeri Powers (Reading Resource), Traci Seyb (Technology), Amy Fontaine (5th Grade), Meredith Malone (5th Grade), and three additional fifth grade teachers)
School:  Riverview Elementary, Shawnee, Kansas (Demographics: Suburban, 5% Free & Reduced Lunch, 3% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  One Semester, December to May

Challenge:  Students collaborate to produce stories in a variety of formats, and publish them publicly.

Description:   “Read. Write. Share!” was a semester long project designed to engage and motivate students to read and write purposefully. In addition to the Reading and Technology teachers, the entire 5th grade team at Riverview Elementary collaborated on this effort. The idea was simple: throughout the semester teachers would pose authentic challenges to students on a collaborative online platform. Over the course of the year, students solved challenges in a variety of formats including podcasts, video PSAs, documentaries and animations and share them online. Beginning with a social studies unit on colonization asking students “What would it be like to start your life over?”, students explores this 300 year-old piece of American history from a variety of angles. Would they consider the challenges of living in Colonial times or consider our country’s most recent “colonists” by investigating immigration within their own community? Once they made their decision, students worked together to write, edit, produce and publish podcasts. As the project evolved, students in two 5th Grade classrooms continued the efforts and published a range of work on topics aligned to social studies and science, including persuasive calls to action around current-day global issues. 

Outcome: Model Classroom Blog Post: 
Student Work: Colonial Student Podcasts 

“What’s really amazing is that three boys in Amy’s room [a participating teacher] came to her today and want to work on a project to present to the district school board. They want to research and then put together a persuasive presentation as to why we need better technology in our district. Amy is working with them on how to frame their message – with respect, real facts/research… really consider their audience. The boys have gone from teachers giving them a challenge to challenging themselves!”

- Jeri Powers, 2012 

After the completion of “Read, Write, Share” Jeri went on to spearhead the development of a Model Classroom professional development for her school. Eleven teachers participated in the 2012-2013 program. Since then, Jeri has co-designed and implemented a district-wide professional development. and several of the participating teachers from 2011-2012 have adapted their practice to be more student-driven and project based, bringing in real-world challenges and adopting and after school “Genius Hour” to address student interest.

"Excellence is our Destiny"

6th & 7th Grade

Teachers:  Tania Grimes, School Director & Justin Zobrosky, 6th & 7th Grade Teacher
School:  Xavier School of Excellence; South Bend, Indiana (Demographics: Urban, 78% Free & Reduced Lunch, 1% English Language Learners) 
Timeframe:  Academic Year

Challenge:  Explore ways to integrate service learning projects into the school-wide curriculum.

Description:  What does it mean to be an active and engaged community member?’ Initially focusing on how to help the local community, the project began by raking and cleaning the yards of nearby residents who were physically disabled, elderly, or simply could not find the time take care of the yard. Students then brainstormed a way for the school to give back to the Cardinal Nursing Home, who had donated to the school. As students built relationships, they decided to interview and record the stories of selected residents. Students’ reflections were published through songs, poems, stories or monologues, and then shared online with school leaders and the community. 

Outcome:  “I literally saw these kids grow as people, not just as students…. The ample effort, emotion, thought, and sincerity poured into this… project is something I had never expected to achieve as a first year teacher…. As I plan to continue this project for years to come, planning it around standards is not going to be the goal. Building relationships and life experience dealing with unfamiliar people and places is what it is going to be all about…. Instead of using grades and other material incentives to motivate behavior, we will use these moral incentives of building relationships to encourage character growth and moral consciousness.”

- Justin Zobrosky, Project Lead and first year teacher

"Citizenry Through Service"

Middle School Homeroom 

Teacher:  Beth Oswald
School:  JC McKenna Middle School; Evansville, Wisconsin (Demographics: Suburban, 28% free and reduced lunch, 3% English Language Learners) 
Timeframe:  5 weeks

Challenge:  Encourage students to explore the school looking for areas of need. 

Description:  Beth Oswald shared, “The character education and citizenship component of homeroom is increasingly being neglected in my middle school as a result of high-stakes testing and the data-driven interventions mandated by NCLB. Students are being pulled from homeroom for academic remediation (math and reading interventions), and, as a result, cannot participate in those activities designed to address their socio-emotional needs.” Citizenry Through Service used a unit on empathy to encourage students exploration of school and community needs. In one activity, students visited a food pantry and photographed items that would help them through hard times and identified missing necessities. Students determined the need for basic necessities including shampoo and soap, then worked together on a community call to action using Facebook and YouTube. This cross-disciplinary project required students to collaborate and use a variety of academic skills - reading, writing, and general communication skills - while developing technological talents and a sense of self and citizenship.

Outcomes:  Beth reports that the result of this project was increased student empathy for community members struggling to make ends meet. The students’ call-to-action resulted in the creation of Facebook posts and a YouTube video designed to draw attention to the food pantry’s need for basic necessities. Students also sent the video to a number of large soap and shampoo producers in an effort to make a larger impact, but they replied that they do not do donations on a local level.

"More Than Just Football"

Middle School Cross-Curricular

Teacher: Cynda Fickert, 6th Grade Math, and four additional teachers in Language Arts, Visual Arts and Social Studies
School: Auburn City Middle School, Auburn, Alabama (Demographics: rural, 58% free and reduced lunch, 0% English Language Learners) 
Timeframe: 4 weeks

Challenge: Students create a scale model of a monument representing Alabama citizenry

Description:   Ninety percent of the Alabama state citizens described themselves as college football fans. Auburn, Alabama is home of the Iron Bowl, the college football rivalry game played between the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn University Tigers. This cross-curricular project was spearheaded by a middle school math teacher wanting to redirect her students to explore and discover other important aspects of Alabama beyond football, and looking to find ways to use math for student civic engagement. The project explored symbolism and citizenry, challenging teams of students to select an Alabama citizen or event to memorialize. Students used a collaborative online space to brainstorm, draft ideas, and share work. As students developed their scale models, they used a design thinking process to ideate, draft, design, and build. Students projects were published online and presented at a “Community Day.” 

Outcomes: Project Wikispace 

“My students and I began discussing [our Community Day] in class today, and they are super excited!... [I]t’s hard to get them excited about projects this late in the school year. They like the idea of the freedom they will have, and they appreciate the trust I have placed in them.”

“Corporate Citizenship”

High School Marketing Students 

Teacher:  Laura Jones
School:  Pasco High School; Pasco, Washington (Demographics: Urban, 71% Free & Reduced Lunch, 19% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  Semester

Challenge:  Develop business proposals to serve the community’s needs through the student-run DECA Doghouse.

Description:  The Pasco High School Marketing Program utilized a student-run store, the DECA Doghouse, challenging student employees to investigate their population and develop proposals to become a better corporate citizen at school and beyond. Reflecting on exemplary models like TOMS Shoes, they researched, evaluated, and debated business case studies. As a team, students determined ways to take action within school and the community at-large, a high-poverty community. Students experimented with a range of tools-- including social media, QR codes, and polling tools-- to collaborate, connect with customers, and market the DECA Doghouse. Project proposals included school-wide recycling, providing support to homeless teens, and collecting clothing for Goodwill Industries.

Outcome:  “This program is helping me push the envelope in terms of the limitations of my technology and the district’s technology policies. These ideas need to be pushed and these conversations… need to happen in order for us to successfully educate students who will need to access, learn and evaluate technology resources.”

- Laura Jones, 2012 

Laura’s students continue their efforts on technology integration, using Edmodo and a new set of iPads. They continue to implement the Corporate Citizenship project, resulting in some spin-off opportunities. They won a National Youth Leadership Council Project Ignition Grant and students created a campaign, "Don't Wreck Your Text" to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving.

"Make an Impact"

High School Engineering

Teacher:  Bryan Coburn
School:  Northwestern High School; Rock Hill, South Carolina (Demographics: Rural, 40% Free & Reduced Lunch, 5% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  Semester

Challenge:  Devise and propose solutions to a local water shortage. 

Description:  Bryan Coburn’s scenario or “mission” presented to his Introduction to Engineering students was inspired by the community’s very real drought, a drought so bad that cars could only be washed on specific days. South Carolina is not alone: approximately one-third of the US is at high risk for water shortage. Students identified and examined environmental issues related to water scarcity in their community, then designed solutions to be shared with the community and experts. Students created online portfolios showcasing their research, 3D designs, and multimedia presentations marketing their designs. Student proposals included documentation of each stage of the design process, a design brief, decision matrix, a prototype using Autodesk Inventor 3D professional modeling tool, and a final presentation where students pitched their proposed solution to a ‘grant’ review committee consisting of local engineers from the community, the city water manager and the school’s principal. Upon project completion Steve Brown of the Pearson Foundation commented “The fact that Bryan is now having his kids think of the world around them as their classroom, while not new, is really at the center of what we’re trying to do with this program... And frankly, it has less to do with technology or digital media per se and more to do about a mindset. The list of digital tools they used is not nearly as impressive as the fact that they want to make an impact on the city water situation in their community.” 


Press: eSchool News “Project Aims to Inspire the ‘Model Classroom’”
Project Artifacts:

  • Team Presentation (Prezi): Water Conservation Project
  • Team Website (Weebly): Online Portfolio of work
  • Project Website (Weebly): Make an Impact
  • Photos-Project in Process: Project Process Photos

“We didn’t just sit there and learn. We actually did fun and involving work. You wanted to be there. It would be great if it [these hands-on real world projects] could be spread around to other classes.”

- Lakasha, a student of Bryan’ who was so
inspired by the project
that she spent a
weekend learning
HTML code for the website.

"Robotics and Social Networking"

High School Physics

Teacher:  D. Allan Bruner
School:  Colton High School; Colton, Oregon (Demographics: Rural, 33% Free & Reduced Lunch, 0% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  Academic Year

Challenge:  High School Robotics students explore ways to improve team collaboration, communication, and improved mentorship opportunities for younger students. 

Description:  Located in a rural Oregon mill town community, Colton High School is challenged by limited resources and struggles in science literacy. Teacher Allan Bruner creates opportunities for students to engage in projects that bring science to life. Allan challenged the High School Physics students and LEGO robotics team to explore how they could use technology to improve their competitive edge, build team collaboration and begin a mentoring program that provides an early opportunity for students from a nearby middle school to get involved in robotics. The project began with team building activities to jump start the collaboration between the two schools. Students experimented with their own mobile devices and tested a social network as a means for collaboration and mentorship. As a result, students found creative ways to work together and share ideas. This mentorship resulted in students entering the High School robotics program, where they remain engaged today and continue seeking opportunities to mentor younger students. 

Outcome:  "Of the original high school students involved ... five are currently pursuing degrees in engineering sciences; two are officer cadets with the ROTC programs at their universities; one student continues to pursue studies to become a mathematics teacher….Our project has had some powerful impact on those moving on into post-secondary opportunities.”

D. Allan Bruner, 2013 Reflection

“Feeding the Nation”

High School Culinary Arts & Community Service Requirement

Teacher: Andy Mogle
School: Norwalk High School, Norwalk, Iowa (Demographics: Suburban, 20% Free & Reduced Lunch, <1% English Language Learners)
Challenge: Develop and prepare a series of meal plans for a local shelter, then document and share with the community. 

Description: After attending a summer “Mission Possible” workshop, Andy set out to get his Culinary Arts students involved where nutritional education is most needed. Andy planned for his students to collaborate with local homeless shelter staff and service organizations to develop, then deliver and serve, a series of five nutritional meals. However, due to scheduling issues with the students and multiple logistics at the shelter, the project had to be abbreviated to one visit. Andy shares that his students were able to reach and serve about 20 people living in the shelter. Importantly, this event opened up a discourse on the histories that led them to the shelter, making students realize how even small issues can lead a person to homelessness. 

Outcomes:  Andy reflected, “I used much of what was taught that summer in creating the plan. I regret I wasn’t able to fully execute the project....I know the students gained a lot of life learning from just a single event. I wish we could have completed the whole plan and returned over time so the students could experience the ongoing struggles the economically disadvantaged face every day in their lives.”

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The Model Classroom was a three-year program of the New Learning Institute, sponsored by the Pearson Foundation.

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2012-2013 Model Classroom Projects

The 2012-2013 program year kicked off with an ambition six-week series of “Mission Possible” workshops at the Smithsonian Institution. Project proposals from teacher workshop attendees resulted in a continuation of the individual program, but also brought several opportunities for expanded teacher professional development programs in Kansas, Oregon and Michigan. These new programs evolved Model Classroom beyond individual project model to a more comprehensive model reaching locally networked teachers and administrators. Additionally, these new programs necessitated a shift from the project-based “box” to an emphasis on the smaller practices within approaches like problem-based learning, design thinking, civic engagement and place-based education. 

2012 Workshop Approach

The introduction of new Smithsonian museums caused some workshops to more heavily focus on museum content. Despite this, the Mission Possible workshop remained largely an active and hands-on model. Many workshops focused on themes like community and culture; the resulting projects in case studies illustrate these themes well. 

Teacher Audience

Expanding the audience beyond STOY alumni, these workshops also included NEA award winners and teachers representing the CCSSO Innovation Lab Network. 

2012-2013 School-Year Program

The level of support provided to individual projects was significantly less high-touch. In addition to many teachers being in their second year with Model Classroom, many teachers took the idea of community and civic engagement to heart in designing their projects, resulting in more local support for some projects. As the professional development programs began in Kansas and Oregon, Model Classroom worked on developing systems to support more incremental versions of the work, as well as strategies for documenting and sharing these efforts.

“The World is Our Family”

1st Grade Teachers:  Adele Bravo & Mallory Bravo.

School:  Kohl Elementary School & Hanson Elementary ; Broomfield & Commerce City, Colorado (Kohl Demographics: Suburban, 20% Free & Reduced Lunch, 1% English Language Learners) (Hanson Demographics: Suburban, 80% Free & Reduced Lunch, 55% English Language Learners)

Timeframe:  Year Long
Challenge: How can our attitude of being a “family” make a positive impact in our home, our classroom, our school and the world? 

Description:  The World is Our Family encouraged students to tackle real world issues and creates a sense of responsibility for their classroom, home, school, state, and world. This year-long unit built on a previous collaboration and celebrated the diversity of language, culture, ability, family structures, class, ethnicity, and gender. Coming from two very different schools, Adele and Mallory integrated a pen pal system as a method to do authentic reading and writing. The first grade classes from each school engaged with each other, exploring their own identity, sharing what makes them unique and what similarities they have with other students. They looked to their own family, gaining and sharing an understanding of different family structures, then to their classroom, seeing it as their first “family community” outside of their home, a place where they learn how to build community. Finally they viewed the world as family, trying to understand cultural and family traditions and their connections to other groups. The project concluded with a field trip to meet their pen pals. 

Outcome:   “Watching the children work together has been amazing. They read, wrote, researched, problem-solved, thought critically, investigated, evaluated, the list goes on and on. Our journey took us to places of learning that no textbook or curriculum guide will ever approach. From names on a paper . . . strangers . . . to friends and coworkers. These children teach us that though we may approach life and learning from different perspectives, our personalities, experiences, abilities, and attitudes are the strength of who we are. When we focus on a task, this is the energy and tenacity that will see it through.”

-Adele Bravo

Video:  Pen Pal School Visit 

Press: Colorado Education Association: Family team teaching captures spirit of National Teacher Day

Daily Camera: Kohl students welcome Commerce City pen pals to Broomfieldhttp

“I Am One of a Kind”

3rd Grade

Teacher:  Lucy Popson
School:  Walter Douglas Elementary School; Tucson, Arizona (Demographics: Urban, 74% Free & Reduced Lunch, 37% English Language Learners)

Timeframe:  7 Months, starting in October 2012

Challenge:  Identify local needs and work collaboratively to advocate for and take action. 

Description:   I am One of a Kind is more than a project; it’s a set of practices that speak to a belief in students developing their own interests, building empathy for others, and empowering students to take action and make a difference. Centering her 2012-2013 work around the existing student “Caring Crew”, Lucy’s work illustrates a consistent practice of finding opportunities within students' lives, the school, and the local community. A series of small practices-- for example, student-produced videos teaching each other math concepts and student-authored animal stories to raise money for the local Humane Society-- were paired with bigger ongoing projects such as a school garden, trash clean-ups, and a school-wide day of caring. These worked together to help students define themselves as unique individuals capable of impacting their community. In Lucy’s words, “This is about a child-centered philosophy of teaching and learning. The projects are ways to teach and encourage my students to reach their full potential in 3rd grade and to plant the seed to continue with this way of thinking (caring, working collaboratively, influencing others, taking action) throughout their lives.”

Outcome: Despite the significant challenges often presented in high-poverty schools-- students reading and writing below grade level, an emphasis on testing, and a less flexible instructional approach-- Lucy shared that Model Classroom-like work is essential for her students to build confidence beyond their test scores. Because of minimal time in the school day, Lucy established an after-school club for her Caring Crew. 

In Lucy’s own words, “I understand the Model Classroom does not emphasize test scores; however, my students' Spring 2013 AIMS (Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards) scores in both reading and math were above the state and district average. Participating in the Model Classroom projects helped my students learn about the importance of community service. Because the students were constantly writing, reflecting, and sharing about the outcomes of their missions they were practicing reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. The high test scores were a result of their discipline and love of learning. The students had a real purpose for writing, investigating, and presenting.” 

Local Press:  Letters to the Editor regarding littering.

“The Then and Now of Sheridan County”

3rd Grade

Teachers:  Laurie Graves & Lamont Clabaugh
School:  Big Horn Elementary; Big Horn, Wyoming (Demographics: Rural, 19% Free & Reduced Lunch, 0% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  Year long

Challenge:  Share the history of Sheridan County, then and now, with the community, and take action to preserve it for the future.

Description: While investigating their local county history, students were challenged to recognize their role in the community and ultimately realize the importance of stewardship for the county's land, history and culture. Students began by researching their local history through many first hand experiences including museum visits, local resident interviews and visits to places representing the current culture. Challenged to find ways to make “A Better Community”, students chose to investigate recycling. They conducted hands-on research to determine the need for a recycling program through a school survey, town trash pickup and visit to the local Landfill and Recycling Center. Students then developed a proposal for a school-wide recycling program, interviewed the principal to address their concerns and began to carry out their plan. Having the students take action by implementing their idea was key to bringing their study of the then and now of local history full circle. The end of the school year was not an end for the project; student work on the recycling program continues. 

“They were very invested in making a difference for the now and the future of the county and are fired up about continuing with the recycling efforts.”

-Laurie Graves 

Outcome: Teacher Lamont reflected, “We tried to integrate the project with core subjects as much as possible. This integration of instruction offered students a way to apply their learning skills in real-life scenarios.” Working as a team, Laurie and Lamont made a year-long plan with clear timelines of completion for various instructional “chunks”. Aside from a successful standards-based instructional strategy, this project had a real impact on the participating students and the surrounding community. Students informed the school about the importance of recycling, developed systems to improve recycling options and implemented a school-wide recycling program that involved all students, other teachers, school principals, school custodians, and the county recycling center. Students also reported increased recycling and reusing of materials at home. In order to be successful in this process, students had to think beyond their own personal needs to consider the needs of the larger community and the local environment. Collaboration went well beyond the classroom and included working with peers, students across all grade levels, adults, and a variety of local experts. 

“Making the project student-driven allowed multiple opportunities for students of all skill levels and interests to participate and be part of the process.”

-Laurie Graves

“Take a Stand on the Land”

3rd and 4th Grade

Teachers:  Katie Sullivan, Prudence Krasofski & Heidi Hill
School:  Warren School; Warren, VT (Demographics: Rural, 36% Free & Reduced Lunch, 0% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  3 Weeks, starting in October 2012

Challenge:  Students decide if their town should prohibit development on its publicly owned forest, then persuade voters on Town Meeting Day.

Description:  Voters of Warren, Vermont were set to decide whether to put a town-owned parcel of land known as the Eaton parcel into conservation and forever prohibit development. The parcel abuts the Warren School property and is home to an interpretive nature trail used by the school on a regular basis. Students investigated the parcel of land, decided how it would best serve the community and tried to persuade the voters. Their investigations involved visiting and documenting the parcel of land, talking to experts and community members, participating in a forum and conducting first hand research. Students were actively engaged in exploring forms of influence, strategies for gaining and sustaining attention constructively, and civically working to achieve real world goals. But most importantly, the students discovered that they have a voice. They have an opportunity to make an impact on their world and see the direct results of their actions.

Outcome:   Although the the Conservation Committee decided to withdraw their request for the easement, students were able to plan an "Eaton Symposium" where all 3 classes were able to share their work with their peers, the school, and community members and leaders. 

Katie Sullivan and one of her students presented the project at a ed-tech conference in the fall of 2014. The student shared how he produced an iMovie about the project by using slide shows and Keynote presentations, then showed an excerpt at the conference. Katie stressed that Project Based Learning does not have to be an add-on to the curriculum and that allowing the students to take lead roles in the technology integration means that the teachers can go beyond their personal comfort levels and achieve amazing results!

Press: Valley Reporter: Students weigh in on fate of Eton Forest

“Salmon Run”

4th & 5th Grade

Teachers:  Jackie Cooke & Paul Chambers
School:  Hogan Cedars Elementary and Deep Creek Elementary; Gresham-Barlow, Oregon (Hogan Demographics: Hogan Suburban, 52% Free & Reduced Lunch, 12% English Language Learners) (Deep Creek Demographics: Suburban, 31% Free & Reduced Lunch, 12% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  7 Months

Challenge:  Persuade and educate others to engage in actions to help protect the local salmon population.

Description:  Salmon is a major industry and important part of Oregon’s livelihood. Hogan Cedars Elementary 5th graders teamed up with 4th graders downriver at Deep Creek Elementary to discuss salmon preservation and ways to raise awareness. While 5th graders explored the importance of salmon to local Native American tribes through art, folktales, and resources at the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access; the 4th graders were busy raising and releasing salmon. Students shared updates on Google Hangout, including videos of the salmon release. The collaboration resulted in student-created S4STS, Students For Saving The Salmon. With the support of Jeff Uebel, a local biologist and fisheries expert from the US Forest Service, students built a website, an online survey and an interactive science fair featuring QR codes to their website. Student-produced PSAs were broadcast on local cable, and Hogan Cedars students took the initiative to get their message on the school’s outdoor billboard and make school-wide announcements about S4STS. 

Outcome:   The Students for Saving the Salmon (S4STS) website Project Publication: Integrating Math, Science, ELA, and Technology through Challenge Based Learning Project 

Jackie shared, “When students started taking of my students took it on herself to set up an appointment with the principal and, as a result, did a presentation about our project at a whole school assembly.” Although Jackie is now retired, another teacher in her school was so inspired by the students’ presentation that she continues Jackie’s efforts and collaboration during the 2013-2014 school-year. 

Press: The Outlook: Save the Salmon

“Preserving Appalachia”

6th Grade Language Arts

Teachers:  Hannah Walls
School:  Bates Middle School; Danville, Kentucky (Demographics: Rural, 63% Free & Reduced Lunch, <3% English Language Learners) Became a P21 and MyVoice school during the 2013-2014 school-year.
Timeframe:  8 weeks, starting in April 2013

Challenge:  Students explored issues and consequences of stereotypes within local Appalachian culture, then created an exhibition and production honoring local traditions and relics.

Description: Appalachia has a rich culture full of unique traditions and an impressive heritage, yet many negative stereotypes persist. 6th grade teachers used this as a springboard to teach respect, explore the consequences of stereotypes, overcome adversity, and work together to curate an exhibition. They investigated Appalachian culture by working with local experts like Tammy Horn, professor at Eastern Kentucky University and specialist in Appalachian cultural traditions; taking a field trip to Logan Hubble Park to explore the natural region; talking with a “coon” hunter and other local Appalachians including quilters, cooks, artists, and writers. Finally, students connected virtually with museum expert Rebecca Kasemeyer, Associate Director of Education at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to discuss exhibition design. For their final projects students produced a series of works exhibiting Appalachian life, work, play and community structure including a quilt, a theatrical performance and a website. 

Outcome:  Students created Project Playhouse, a live production for the local community. Audience members included community members, parents, and other students. In addition, students designed a quilt sharing Appalachian history, and recorded their work on the Preserving Appalachia class wikispace. 

Hannah reflected that her students were “able to learn the way they learn naturally, every student gets a chance- there is no longer one best way to accomplish a task. Students are not just mimicking what their teachers are writing down; they are now creating, problem solving, and working together to reach their individual goals…. This [approach] challenges students to go beyond their desk and produce not just ‘dumpster projects,’ but projects that are meaningful, useful, and innovative.” 

“We hope to share with many people this piece of Appalachian culture and teach them that their negative stereotypes are not true. We also hope that when people walk away from our theater they can say that they learned something new about the Appalachian culture.”

- Morgan V, student

“What is Culture?”

7th Grade

Teacher:  Beth Oswald
School:  J. C. McKenna Middle School; Evansville, Wisconsin (Demographics: Rural, 28% Free & Reduced Lunch, 3% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  4 Weeks

Challenge:  Investigate and market the unique cultural qualities of Evansville.

Description:  7th graders were challenged to discover what culture means to them and their community. They explored the unique qualities of culture by investigating their families, peer groups, school, and the Evansville community. Then, working together, they created digital products designed to “sell Evansville” - an effort to encourage people to join their small community and keep it thriving. This project enabled students to explore how cultures differ in a variety of ways: language, rules, stories, legends, and symbols. But together, these unique cultural differences create the core of a community, what makes it special and unique, and how these cultural differences enhance their own lives. 

Outcome:  “The result is a collection of websites created by teams of students that market the city of Evansville….Students were told they were to work as an advertising agency, creating a website … to encourage people to come to their city. When they were done, the students gave presentations to a panel of community experts including the mayor, a local historian, an alderperson, retired teachers, school administrators and longtime residents.”

Student Website: Come To Evansville.

Press: The Gazettextra

“Project Invent!”

6th - 8th Grades

Teachers:  Chris DelPonte, Matt Heuser 
(GTT/Engineering), Darci VanAdestine (Art/Design), and Genny Lambert (World Cultures/Spanish)
School:  Waukesha STEM Academy-Middle School Campus; Waukesha, Wisconsin (Demographics: Rural, 18% Free & Reduced Lunch, 2% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  3 Months

Challenge:  Research, conceptualize, and design a new product that could be taken to market.

Description:  Project Invent got students thinking about innovation, specifically, "How do companies innovate new and revolutionary products?" Each grade-level focused on inventing new products that met certain constraints and requirements. 6th grade focused on toys, 7th grade on engineering a mechanism or automation, and 8th graders chose their focus. Students learned the new product development process by researching, conceptualizing, and designing a new product. Students were responsible for identifying industry experts and local businesses to support their process. Each student maintained a digital project portfolio in order to capture, analyze and reflect on their progress. Students brought a wide variety of knowledge to this project and were able to personalize their learning, researching content as needed in a method that suited them. Students presented their final products and offered workshops at the STEM Academy’s Invention Convention which was open to students, parents, and community members. 

Outcome: “The great thing about Project Invent is that it really put students in control of their own learning. Their final inventions were truly reflections of their own learning and interests.”

- Chris Delponte

Invention Convention Website: Stem, Inc.

Press: Fox 6 Now: Waukesha students show off their inventive sides


Middle School

Teachers:  Elizabeth Firnkes, Jenny Barry, Kevin German, Kristin Sims, Scott Davis, Stephanie Gifford, Jessica Dumont
School:  Messalonskee Middle School; Oakland, Maine (Demographics: Rural, 31% Free & Reduced Lunch, 0% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  Project Planning: 2 Months; Project Implementation 6-8 Weeks

Challenge:  Create a utopian school or community based on key values and beliefs determined by the group. 

Description:  Sixth graders took a new look at their worldview. Oakland, Maine is a gateway town to the Belgrade Lakes Region rural community. Exposure to the outside world is rare. Teacher Elizabeth Firnkes, wanted to expose her students to other cultural perspectives. Elizabeth and her team created Middletopia: A Middle School Quest for the Perfect Society to immerse students into new experiences. The project challenged students to seek ways to build community, thinking critically about religion and culture’s role in communities. Students began by building a foundation for understanding community through dystopian literature selections such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. Moving forward, a partnership with Interfaith Maine, a non-profit organization dedicated to seeking peace and justice through deepening interfaith relationships and understanding, students organized, planned, and hosted an Interfaith Panel discussion including a Rabbi, a Catholic Priest, a Muslim, a Hindu, and a Pagan. As a one-to-one laptop school, students took advantage of a range of tools to collaborate and plan for the event. During the event, students managed the event with different students taking on roles of photographer, videographer, personal aid to panelists, and support to local press. 

Outcome:  Each panelist commented on the power of the experience, especially working with the students. At the panelists’ and students’ recommendation, Elizabeth continues this program every year, making improvements and incorporating more learning targets along the way. 

Project Website: 
Interfaith Panel Press Coverage

“Detroit 1933/2033”

Middle School

Teachers:  June Teisan, Alexandra Beels, student intern; Kelly Herberholz, student intern
School:  Harper Woods Middle School; Harper Woods, Michigan (Demographics: Suburban Detroit, 95% Free & Reduced Lunch, <1% English Language Learners)
Timeframe:  One Year

Challenge:  Examine Detroit’s challenges and successes from 1933 to today, then think ahead to 2033 and plan for future redevelopment and your role in this transformation.

Description:  June Teisan’s “Future Think” students conducted an in-depth examination of Detroit, a famous American auto industry icon. The city has experienced decline as a result of industry’s collapse. Detroit native June Teisan wants her students to take pride in their community and see the potential for its future. This place-based learning project combined science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) for a comprehensive examination and problem-solving process. The famous Detroit Industry frescos at the Detroit Institute of Arts served as inspiration and a centerpiece for the project. Students worked with a variety of other experts and organizations; visiting local sites like the Edsel Ford House and Detroit Historical Society, and hosting classroom guests including student advisors from the College for Creative Studies. As an advocate of student “voice and choice,” June asked students to determine how to complete the project. Project options included creating an interactive mural depicting a better future for Detroit, building an online Tinker plot of future industry development and building a website presenting solutions to the community.

Outcome:  Students facing the challenges of growing up in the Detroit area were able to reframe their perspective: a view of Detroit's vibrant past and an examination of their own abilities fueled dreams of a better future for their city and their own role in that revitalization. 

Beyond the benefits to her students, Detroit 1933-2033 had much further impact. This classroom project was the inspiration for a summer 2013 teacher professional development workshop. Hosted at the Detroit Institute of Arts and designed in partnership with the Network of Michigan Educators and Model Classroom, 20 teachers participated in this workshop. Several participants are implementing similar projects in their own schools, and discussions for future professional developments are underway.

Press: “Program to join science and art through exploration”

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The Model Classroom was a three-year program of the New Learning Institute, sponsored by the Pearson Foundation.

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Model Classroom Professional Development

Model Classroom has implemented a range of professional development that is relevant to local communities. Examples include a workshop exploring civic engagement through various Washington, DC sites including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery; a program exploring local problems in coastal Oregon by utilizing expertise at organizations like the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and a workshop challenging Detroit teachers to get their students involved in finding solutions to the city’s ongoing financial and structural problems. 

Between 2010 and 2013 Model Classroom designed and implemented a range of workshops and professional developments. Each experience intentionally put teachers into the shoes of students by giving them real challenges to solve collaboratively. Throughout the process teachers were given access to experts in the local area including museums, research facilities, businesses, and news centers. Teachers were also encouraged to find relevant information sources on their own. Teachers experienced first-hand how approaches like problem-based learning, design thinking, civic engagement and place-based education could work in their classroom, all the while using technology purposefully, integrating subject matter, determining standards alignment, and building a range of 21st century skills. 

Importantly, each workshop and program built-in time for teachers to reflect and apply the experience by designing their own practice, classroom activity, or project to implement. Some of the projects designed are represented in the Teacher Case Studies section.

Summer “Mission Possible” Series: 2011-2013

Location:  Washington, DC and New York, New York

Audience:  State Teacher of the Year award winners; teachers representing CCSSO Innovation Lab networks (2012 only)

Description:  What does “being a part of something and being responsible for something” mean? How might educators enable today’s youth to be active and contributing citizens?” These week-long summer workshops were centered around key questions like this, often on the theme of civic engagement. Each workshop focused on 21st century learning practices, taking a hands-on approach to compel teachers to explore real world learning experiences. The workshop design challenged teachers to collaborate and problem-solve around daily missions while utilizing museums, organizations, interactions with the public, new media tools, and each other. Throughout each active challenge, teachers developed and produced solutions, then reflected on how their work process connects to 21st century learning opportunities for their own students.

2011 Collaborators: Smithsonian National Postal Museum, ARTLAB at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital for Learning and Digital Access (formerly SCEMS) [Each workshop held at one collaborator’s site.]

2012 Collaborators: Cooper Hewitt Design, National Design Museum; National Museum of the American Indian; National Museum of African Art; National Portrait Gallery; Smithsonian American Art Museum; National Air and Space Museum [Each workshop held at one collaborator’s site]

2013 Collaborators: National Portrait Gallery (on-site workshop), National Public Radio, Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Library of Congress, the Newseum [All workshops represent field trips to collaborator’s site.] 

Outcomes: See Teacher Case studies for all three program years. In addition, the professional development listed below was all proposed by teachers attending Mission Possible.

Teacher-Initiated Professional Development

Some program participants have initiated professional-development opportunities for their own communities in partnership with Model Classroom. These partnerships began in the fall of 2012, and are more personalized to local communities and resources and needs.

Model Classroom Design Team

Location:  Riverview Elementary School; Shawnee, Kansas
Teacher:  Jeri Powers (Kansas State Teacher of the Year 2007)

Description:  The Model Classroom Design Team was a school-based model. A hands-on professional development opportunity, the intention was to help teachers to reflect on their own practice and apply small changes directly in their classroom over the course of the school year. The Design Team aimed to make teachers the true designers of the experience as they developed ideas for direct implementation within their classroom-focusing on 21st century approaches to learning: specifically student-driven learning strategies, problem-based learning, leveraging real world learning opportunities, and authentic technology integration. Eleven teachers from grades 1-5 participated. 

Outcomes:  The Model Classroom Design Team did not meet all of its intended outcomes, but as a result learned many important lessons that were applied to other school-year professional development models. Notably, the teacher cohort felt frustrated by the open-ended “design” assignments provided to help them develop smaller practices. Recognizing this hurdle, Model Classroom created more concrete templates and systems for future work with another project (Project SEAL; see next page). Additionally, while many teachers were motivated to develop their practice and implement activities and projects; communication, documentation and sharing were difficult due to a lack of tangible incentives. In the similarly designed Project SEAL teachers received grant-funded stipends and iPad minis. These incentives paired with high expectations for program participation made a noticeable difference in getting results to publish and share.

"Detroit 1933-2033"

Location:  Detroit Institute of Arts; Detroit, Michigan
Audience:  Local teachers; application-based process
Teacher:  June Teisan (2007 Michigan State Teacher of the Year) and Matinga Ragatz (2010 Michigan State Teacher of the Year) represented the Network of Michigan Educators <>, a network of award-winning Michigan educators, in designing and implementing this workshop.

Description:  Detroit is in a time of enormous change and transformational shifts that require reimagining and rediscovering itself. How might educators and students play a role in this renewal and have a positive impact on Detroit’s future? How might today’s youth be active contributors in their community? The Detroit 1933-2033 (D33) Summer Teacher Institute gave teachers first-hand experience exploring these challenges, as well as an opportunity to identify ways for students to make an impact in the city’s future. Participating teachers took on the roles of creator, producer, publisher and much more while exploring the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), the Detroit Historical Museum, the local Detroit community, and working with a variety of local experts including local entrepreneurs, community advocates, Wayne State University professors, and a journalist from the Detroit Free Press. Using the design thinking process to identify a problem, teachers worked in teams to actively problem-solve, identify and develop an opportunity for their students to take action, and present their proposal to a public audience. 

Outcomes: Participating teachers and organizations including the Network of Michigan Educators and the Detroit Institute of Arts would like the D33 work to continue in upcoming years. Initial discussions for future work are underway. Additionally, several teachers are implementing work as a result of the program. 

Project:  Project HOPE | High School visual arts teacher Jelane Richardson and second grade teacher Kim Morrison collaborated on “Project HOPE.” Focusing on wide open spaces within Detroit, older and younger students worked together to translate their ideas about “home” into designing homes and communities they want for their city. Students will present their plans to a public audience in December 2013.

Project:  Inventing Places | Seventh grade teacher Jenna Purdu designed “Inventing Places” challenging her special education students to reinvent vacant spaces in their communities. Students drew inspiration from local nonstandard projects like creating a BMX park and transforming an abandoned ramshackled public playground into something useful to the community.

Project SEAL

Location:  Lincoln County, Oregon
Teacher:  Ruth McDonald, Curriculum Resource Liaison

Description:  Project SEAL (Students Engaged in Authentic Literacy) is a two year US Department of Education Innovative Approaches to Literacy Grant. Model Classroom was invited to be the professional development partner for this grant after the grant program manager attended a Summer 2012 Mission Possible workshop. Each participating organization has committed financial and/or human resources as part of this partnership. Nearly 90 educators including classroom teachers, library and media assistants, and school principals have participated in SEAL. SEAL exists within the context of community organizations representing a range of ocean literacy work including the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University and many others. SEAL increases library resources, provides iPads to participating schools and provides ongoing teacher professional development. 

As the professional development partner for SEAL, Model Classroom empowers teachers and students through a student-driven and hands-on approach. Educators are encouraged to make small changes over time and integrate SEAL into what they are already doing. To begin, participants identify a goal focusing on practices like: using local resources, educational technology, 21st century competencies, and student-driven learning. Support in reaching these goals begins with intensive community-based workshops. Workshops are designed as immersive experiences, challenging educators to try new approaches, putting educators in the role of their students and challenging them to problem-solve collaboratively using community resources and digital media. Following the workshops, the partnership spans six months of the school-year and uses a blended approach combining assignments that challenge educators to test new practices, an online community, monthly group meetings, and classroom observations. In addition, building community within and outside the school is encouraged, helping educators tap into expertise within community organizations, their colleagues, themselves and ultimately their students. 

Outcomes:   This project will continue through the spring of 2013. Outcomes from the first program year (2012-2013), include nearly ten completed projects centered around issues of ocean literacy. In addition, many teachers tested new practices and strategies throughout the school-year, building their practice in a smaller and more incremental way. 

Project:  Tsunami Survival Challenge | Knowing the threat of a tsunami is very real to the Oregon coast, Eddyville Middle School teacher Sean Bedell challenged his students to design and construct a wooden evacuation tower model that can withstand three different sizes of tsunamis waves, including one generated by a magnitude 9 earthquake. Students also developed plans to prepare the community for a tsunami. Read more on our blog: Students take on the Oregon Coast Tsunami Survival Challenge

Project: Beach Pollution | Teachers Jenna Samoylich & Amie Lundquist challenged their 4th graders to investigate the impact of Japanese tsunami debris on their local Oregon beaches, then develop ways to inform the community. Read more on our blog: Coastal Students Investigate the Impact of Tsunami Debris

Strategy:  “Bored of the Same Old Presentation” First grade teacher Liz Postlewait wanted to give her 1st graders more engaging options for presentations. After taking a trip to investigate local ocean tidepools, Liz asked students to take on the persona of an ocean animal, develop a written presentation and then use an app called Facetalk which makes any photo “talk.” Read more on our blog: Bored of the Same Old Presentation?

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The Model Classroom was a three-year program of the New Learning Institute, sponsored by the Pearson Foundation.

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Students take on the Oregon Coast
Tsunami Survival Challenge

Teacher: Sean BedellConstruction

Subjects: Cross Curricular (STEM, Communications, ELA)

Grade Level: 6th Grade

School: Eddyville Charter School, Eddyville, Oregon

The Challenge: The Tsunami Structure Challenge: Design and construct a wooden evacuation tower model that can withstand three different sizes of tsunamis waves, including one generated by a magnitude 9 earthquake using the materials provided by the Hinsdale Wave Lab at Oregon State University. The structure must keep people safe and dry.

The Problem: Living in Oregon, most students never really think about earthquakes andThe line up of Model Classroom, on Flickr tsunamis because there haven’t been very many in recent recorded history. But scientists warn that the potential threat to the West Coast exists. Unfortunately, time erodes community awareness and preparation. However, students’ attitudes can change when they explore and discover the potential of it actually happening where they live.

In teacher Sean Bedell’s case, the reality of an actual tsunami threat happened. On March 11, 2011, his community awoke to an early morning tsunami warning stemming from a powerful earthquake off the coast of Japan. News broadcast the videos on TV showing the devastating tsunami sweeping across the Japanese coast, reaching miles inland including the fate of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This generated tsunami warnings for all of North America. Knowing the potential threat that a wave could be heading towards the Oregon coast, the community sought higher ground and waited.

Continue reading "Students take on the Oregon Coast Tsunami Survival Challenge" »

Posted on 09/10/2013 | Comments (0)


Connecting with Museums Learning Approach

Case Study: Chris Poulos

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Project Name: Museo del Barrio | Ventures into Abstract Art en Español

Teacher:  Chris Poulos, Redding , CT -
Joel Barlow High School, Connecticut
Teacher of Year 2007

Total Time:  3 - 4 Weeks
› Identify & Explore: 1.5      Weeks
› Connect: 1 Day
› Design & Produce: 1 Week
› Share: 1 Day

Grade Level:
High School Spanish

Number of Participants: 
14 Students in 4 Teams.

Keywords & Content Areas:
› Social Studies: Study of   Latin
› American Culture   Spanish:    Reading,   Writing, Speaking    &   Listening (Interpersonal,   Interpretive &   Presentational)
› Art: Art Interpretation and   Desing Sensibility
› Language Arts: Writing,   Speaking and Listening,   Presenting concepts,   themes &    Ideas
› Media & Technology: Social   Network, Website   Development & Video   Production

Continue reading "Connecting with Museums Learning Approach" »

Posted on 08/29/2013 | Comments (0)


Problem-Based Learning Approach

Case Study: Laurie Graves and Lamont Clabaugh
 Graves & Clabaugh | WY: Landfill & Recycling Center

Laurie Graves & Lamont Clabaugh - Trash Pickup 

Graves | WY: Trash sorting

Graves & Clabaugh | WY: Charts and Graphs

Project Name: A Better Community (ABC)

Teachers: Laurie Graves & Lamont Clabaugh

Total Time: 6 weeks

›  Make it Real:  1-2 weeks
›  Make it Relevant:  2-3 weeks
›  Make an Impact:  2 weeks

Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies, Science & Math

Grade Level: 3rd - 6th Grades

Number of Participants: 32 students in two classes

Key Words & Content Areas:

› Science: Environmental Issues,   Trash & Recycling
› Language Arts: Persuasive Writing,   Personification & Opinion Piece
› Math: Surveys, Graphing,   Estimating &    Data Analysis
› Art: Recycled Art, Designing &   Informative Posters
› Social Studies: Community History   & Personal Interviews

Project Overview: What problems might young kids solve in their communities? Real world problems are often right in our backyard and schoolyard.Given the opportunity to investigate their rural Wyoming community, Big Horn 3rd graders discovered that local residents were not recycling, then chose to research and improve recycling efforts.

Through this project, the students were empowered to recognize their role in the community and ultimately realized the importance of stewardship for the county's land, history and culture. Challenged to find ways to make A Better Community, these 32 third graders chose to investigate recycling in the Big Horn, Wyoming community.  They  started by creating a survey and issuing it to students and teachers on the campus. They compiled the information collected from the surveys and created graphs to determine if there was a need for recycling on the Big Horn campus.

Continue reading "Problem-Based Learning Approach" »

Posted on 08/26/2013 | Comments (0)


Coastal Students Investigate the
Impact of Tsunami Debris

Project SEAL | Jenna & Amie | Tsunami

Amie Lundquist and Jenna Samoylich

GRADE: 4th Grade 

Newport Intermediate School; Newport, Oregon

CHALLENGE: Students were challenged to investigate the impact of Japanese tsunami debris on their local Oregon

beaches, then develop ways to inform the community. This project is an example of how students can respond to natural disasters at the local level, as well as interact with global environmental issues.

This project is part of Project SEAL, a partnership between the Model Classroom Program and Lincoln County Oregon Schools made possible by a US Department of Education grant. As part of the school-year professional development program, participating teachers developed strategies to implement in building 21st century learning practices. 

Continue reading "Coastal Students Investigate the Impact of Tsunami Debris" »

Posted on 06/14/2013 | Comments (0)


Bored of the Same Old Presentation?

First Graders use FaceTalk to Engage a Larger Audience

     Project SEAL | Share a Strategy | Liz Postlewait


Teacher: Liz Postlewait

Grade: 1st Grade

School: Toledo Elementary,
Lincoln County, Oregon

Problem: My students are familiar with sharing and presenting their work, but they get bored of doing the same old presentation. I wanted students to present in a fun and engaging way and gain a sense of ownership over their work. 

Need: Our ocean animal research projects are being presented to a larger audience at our science fair. Attendees at the fair will have no personal buy-in, and I wanted them to get excited about my first graders accomplishments.

Project SEAL | Share a Strategy | Liz Postlewait Project SEAL | Share a Strategy | Liz Postlewait
Photos from student field-trip to ocean tidepools; part of their ongoing ocean research.

Continue reading "Bored of the Same Old Presentation?" »
Posted on 06/03/2013 | Comments (0)


From Desks to Tables: Four Legs of Change

Project SEAL | Sean Bedell

Teacher: Sean Bedell

Grade: 6th Grade, self-contained

School: Eddyville Charter School, Lincoln County Oregon

“This is my first year in middle school, so when I got my classroom it was full of desks. I thought, ‘O.K., the students should start feeling

like they are older and use desks in the classroom.’ I put them in rows and started the year. The desks were fine, but whenever I needed the students to work together they were moving the desks around and there was not much room on the desk itself. Plus the students just sat in the same seat week after week. This was working, but the class just didn’t have a collaborative feeling, but more of an individual, this is my space, learning on my own kind of a vibe.”
Continue reading "From Desks to Tables: Four Legs of Change" »
Posted on 05/30/2013 | Comments (0)


Dreaming Big: Unveiling New Project Planning Tools

It’s the time of year that many teachers are thinking about, dreaming up, and planning end of the year projects. Model Classroom has been thinking about it too, and we’re excited to unveil some new project building tools to support the project-building process. (Much thanks goes to some of the stellar teachers in our larger Model Classroom community, including Jeri Powers and June Teisan, for their feedback in building these tools.) 

Choose your Own Adventure! Brainstorming Guide: Where do you start when planning a project? Teachers in our network tell us that they get inspiration from many different places. Many of you start project-building by using required standards. On the other hand, many of you are interested in learning how to use other sources of inspiration (including places in your school or community, topics students are interested in, and issues of local or global significance). This brainstorming guide has multiple entry points, allowing you to choose your own adventure and plan in a way that better supports your source of inspiration.

The brainstorming guide is saved as a Google presentation on Google Drive.

Challenge Template 3.0: The brainstorming guide connects you to the Model Classroom’s new project building template. The immediate goal of this template is to help you build a flexible framework and project toolkit. The long term goal is to streamline and improve how Model Classroom projects are documented and shared within the larger educational community.

You can find the challenge template 3.0 on Google Templates.

Here’s the catch: both of these tools are in beta. If you use either of these tools, please tell us what you think. Your feedback will be used to improve these tools for other teachers trying to do similar work. 

If you have questions or need help, please contact us through our Facebook Groupor by posting a comment here. Once you’re finished share your template with us! Model Classroom has rolling admissions for virtually supported projects.

Posted on 03/27/2013 | Comments (0)

Project SEAL Educators Are Thrown to the Sharks!

Kicking Off a Model Classroom Professional Development Partnership

PROJECT SEAL = Students Engaged in Authentic Literacy.

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Lincoln County teachers preparing to kick-off a workshop at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

PROJECT:  2 year Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant from the US Department of Education for the students and staff of Lincoln County, Oregon.


› Ruth McDonald, Lincoln   County Oregon School   District Resource Teacher
› Doug Hoffman, Lincoln   County Oregon Media   Specialist
› Julie Crowell, Lincoln   County Oregon Media   Specialist

PARTICIPANTS INVOLVED:  60 teachers, media assistants, teacher mentors and school principals throughout the district

GRADES:  K - 6th (2012-13 school year); 6th - 12th (2013-14 school year)

LOCATION:  Lincoln County School District, Lincoln City, Oregon

CHALLENGE TO TEACHERS:  Test and share strategies that engage students in relevant learning experiences, building examples of student-driven 21st century learning approaches, challenge-based learning projects, authentic technology integration, and real-world application.

Continue reading "Project SEAL Educators Are Thrown to the Sharks!" »

Posted on 03/12/2013 | Comments (2)


Exploring One’s Culture

Evansville Advocates: Investigating the Value of One's Community

Evansville 1

NAME:  Beth Oswald 

TEACHERS INVOLVED: Meg Farnung, Library Media Specialist

GRADE:  7th Grade

SCHOOL:  J. C. McKenna Middle School 

LOCATION: Evansville, Wisconsin

CHALLENGE TO STUDENTS:  Investigate and sell the unique and special cultural qualities of the city of Evansville and why it is a great place to live.

Continue reading "Exploring One’s Culture" »
Posted on 01/23/2013 | Comments (0)


Kids ‘School’ the Board of Education:
A World Showcase in Wyoming

Teachers:  Laurie Graves & Lamont Clabaugh

Project:  The Then and Now of Sheridan County

Overview: Laurie Graves and Lamont Clabaugh’s 3rd grade classes were invited by the superintendent to “show and tell” their continent project to the board of education for their November 20th district board meeting. 

Featured Tools:  Students created QR Codes & Adult Attendee's Smart Phones 

Board Presentations Continent Project 01

On November 20th about 90% of the students came back to school with parents in tow. As the board came in, Laurie welcomed all with a brief overview of the project, explained the New Learning Institute’s Model Classroom partnership, and then turned it over to the kids.

“It was beyond amazing because [the students] just took off!” 

- Laurie.
Continue reading "Kids ‘School’ the Board of Education: A World Showcase in Wyoming" »
Posted on 12/19/2012 | Comments (0)


Detroit 1933/2033
Imagine a Thriving Future for your City

Detroit Auto Industry Victim
Photo: Detroit Auto Industry Victim by Flickr user Bob Jagendorf

NAME: June Teisan, Future Think and Middle School science teacher

  • Alexandra Beels, student intern
  • Kelly Herberholz, student intern 
  • Christina Peltier, art teacher

GRADE: Middle School

SCHOOL: Harper Woods Middle School

LOCATION: Harper Woods, Michigan (Detroit suburb)

CHALLENGE TO STUDENTS: Examine Detroit’s challenges and successes from 1933 to today, then think ahead to 2033 and plan for future redevelopment and your role in this transformation.

Continue reading "Detroit 1933/2033: Imagine a Thriving Future for your City" »
Posted on 12/11/2012 | Comments (0)

Take a Stand on The Land Featured in Valley Reporter

Warren Elementary School, Vermont

                  Eaton Forum 1
The panel of Warren town officials at the forum on November 9th, from left to right, Margo Wade, Damon Reed, Dan Raddock, Kirsten Reilly and Andy Cunningham.

Katie Sullivan’s, Take a Stand on the Land project was featured in the Valley Reporter, a Vermont local newspaper. A forum held at the Warren School on November 9th was featured in the story. Rachel Goff from the Valley Reporter writes: 

“At the forum, which took place in the Warren Elementary School gymnasium, students in grades three through six took turns asking questions about Eaton Forest before a panel of elected town officials. While many of their questions (“What will happen to all of the animals on the land?”) elicited smiles, they also demanded careful, thoughtful responses. What would happen to all of the animals if the town ever chose to develop the land?”

Read the Full Story
Students weigh in on the fate of Eaton Forest

Following this forum, students were asked to form an opinion, take a side, and write a persuasive argument for what should be done with the land. We look forward to seeing what position Katie’s students take. 

Posted on 12/06/2012 | Comments (0)

Stewards caring for
Sheridan County's history and culture

The Then and Now of Sheridan County

Big Horn Elementary School in Big Horn, Wy, a small rural community in the southwestern part of Sheridan County, at the base of the Big Horn Mtns.

TEACHERS INVOLVED:Laurie Graves & Lamont Clabaugh

GRADE: 3rd Grade

SCHOOL:  Big Horn Elementary 

LOCATION:Big Horn, Wyoming

CHALLENGE TO STUDENTS:  Share the history of Sheridan County, then and now, with the community, then take action to preserve it for the future.

Posted on 11/28/2012 | Comments (0)

Make an Impact:
Challenging students to solve
a local water shortage

B Coburn Observor Images   B Coburn Observor Images 2
Bryan Coburn, Rock Hill, SC
South Carolina is at risk of a water shortage. With $500,000 in grants available for innovative conservation projects, it was up to students in Bryan Coburn’s engineering course at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina to devise solutions. 

This scenario or “mission” presented to Bryan Coburn’s Introduction to Engineering students was only part historical fiction, based on the community’s very real drought, a drought so bad that cars could only be washed on specific days. South Carolina is not alone: approximately one-third of the US is at high risk for water shortage.

Continue reading "Make an Impact: Challenging students to solve a local water shortage" »

Posted on 11/26/2012 | Comments (0)



Read. Write. Share!
Finding the Potential in Every Child


  Riverview Tech Project by Model Classroom on Flickr

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Teacher: Jeri Powers, Reading Specialist

Other teachers involved:
  • Amy Fontaine, 5th Grade
  • Meredith Malone, 5th Grade
  • Kelly Lorey, 5th Grade
  • Jill Roush, 5th Grade
  • Ashley DeWitt, 5th Grade
  • Traci Seyb, Technology Teacher
  • Kelly Robinson, Learning Coach

School: Riverview Elementary

Location: Shawnee Mission, Kansas

As the dust settled on the 2011-2012 school-year, reading specialist Jeri Powers met with a team of teachers to reflect on the experience of implementing the “Read. Write. Share!” project with the fifth grade class. She asked the team what stood out about the experience. What had surprised them? The teachers shared that the students who had not displayed academic potential prior to the project rose to the top, enabling them to see real areas of strengths in kids who had typically struggled-- strengths that had previously gone untapped. 

“Read. Write. Share!” was a yearlong project designed to engage and motivate students to read and write in more meaningful ways.


  RiverView 12-14-11_001 

RiverView 12-13-11_017


Posted on 11/14/2012 | Comments (0)



Rising to the Challenge

Students Seek Solutions to Protect their Community's Public Domain

Take a Stand on the Land
Eaton Land Parcel
Students explore the nature trail on the parcel of land that abuts the Warren School.

NAME: Katie Sullivan, 2007 Vermont Teacher of the Year

TEACHERS INVOLVED: Prudence Krasofski & Heidi Hill 

GRADES: 3rd and 4th grades

SCHOOL: Warren School

LOCATION: Warren, Vermont

CHALLENGE TO STUDENTS:Decide if our town should prohibit development on its publicly owned forest, then persuade voters on Town Meeting Day.

Posted on 11/08/2012 | Comments (1)


I Am One of a Kind

Empowering students to recognize their ability to make change to improve their community

      Students working in the garden

TEACHER: Lucy Popson

GRADE: 3rd Grade

SCHOOL:  Walter Douglas Elementary School


CHALLENGE TO STUDENTS:  Identify a local need and work collaboratively to advocate for and take action on the issue.

At first glance, this challenge has a clear project scope and sequence. But don’t be misled. I am One of a Kind is much more than a project. It represents an ongoing series of classroom practices which reflect a belief in students developing their own interests, building empathy for others, and most importantly-- empowering students to take action and make a difference in their community. Lucy’s work has a variety and depth illustrating a consistent practice of finding opportunities within students' lives, the school, and the local community, making learning relevant and real world. 

As Lucy says, “It is not a series of mini projects. It is a child-centered philosophy of teaching and learning. The projects or challenges are ways or means to teach and encourage my students to reach their full potential in 3rd grade and to plant the seed to continue with this way of thinking (caring, working collaboratively, influencing others, taking action) throughout their lives.”

Posted on 11/07/2012 | Comments (0)


Announcing the Model Classroom Book Club!

By popular demand, Model Classroom is starting a virtual book club. Our first book is Ecoliterate: How Educators are Cultivating Emotional, Social and Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Lisa Bennett and Zenobia Barlow. This book explores environmental issues of the time through a series of local case studies, bringing the issues to life and giving educators tangible strategies to use within their own classroom.

This first Book Club “Coffee Chat” was on Saturday, December 1st at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (3:00 p.m. CST, 2:00 p.m. MST, 1:00 p.m. PST). In the spirit of testing new collaborative social tools, we’ll create a "Google Hangout" for this event.  

So, who’s in? We hope you’ll join us! RSVP officially via our Facebook Event, then purchase your copy or check it out of your public library (for those truly environmentally conscious folks).

"The worlds of thought and action have been fundamentally changed by the delineation of emotional, social, and ecological intelligences. In this pioneering book, Dan Goleman and his collaborators demonstrate — in vivid and compelling fashion — how education can be transformed through a synthesis of these intelligences."

     -- Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education,
Harvard Graduate School of Education

Posted on 10/25/2012 | Comments (0)


Mission Possible:
Reimagining The 21st century classroom

After six exciting weeks of summer teacher workshops, the Model Classroom is excited to begin its third year working with educators and youth across the country. 

This summer the Pearson Foundation sponsored six “Mission Possible” workshops hosted by Smithsonian Museums in partnership with the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. Throughout each workshop teachers were challenged to consider 21st century education practices while solving missions, or challenges, which strategically used museum collections, the outside community and the larger world.

At the conclusion of each highly collaborative and participatory week, each educator considered how the practices applied to his or her own classroom by building a challenge-based project. Forty participants have submitted challenge-based projects they plan to implement with their students this year as part of the Model Classroom Program. These projects-- ranging from building a school garden to designing a solution to the loss of a nature trail-- challenge students to address real problems and encourage them to take action.

Stay tuned as we introduce each project in the upcoming weeks and months.


Posted on 09/24/2012 | Comments (0)

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The Model Classroom was a three-year program of the New Learning Institute, sponsored by the Pearson Foundation.

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