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How I Created A Real Life Lesson

How do you start project work? How do you incorporate standards into these projects? How do you control the chaos? These are the many questions I started with and hear often. Project work can be messy and difficult to start. Hopefully, this post will give you some tools to begin a project or find a way to weave standards into a project.

We (Brooke Daniel- a 1st grade teacher at my school) just wrapped up a huge project we started back in November. When I think back to how this project began, I can't believe this is where it took us. We dropped off our $1,332 of donations to the Dayspring Center last week. The adult volunteers were hopeful in the future as they witnessed five and six year olds helping others. It was a proud moment for this teacher. THIS is why I will continue to do this work with my students.


We started this project after we read the book Last Stop On Market Street. I posed the question, "How can we help others?" This book modeled how the grandma and young boy helped others by serving food at a soup kitchen. I love using books to launch a project or a question. It is an easy way to open discussion and use real life examples.

To start, we brainstormed ways to help others and then we voted on our top four choices. We dove deeper in each of these four areas. My class collaborated with Mrs. Daniel's class to vote and map out our grand ideas. This cross grade interaction has many benefits and can make things easier as 1st graders are great helpers and leaders to my kindergarten students.

I love looking back at this 'map' above. Many of these ideas we executed, but some did not end up as the students desired. We hit a roadblock with Habitat for Humanity, but we are still working on it. We didn't end up buying coats or giving out hot chocolate at a soup kitchen. This is how project work goes. It's important to remember that the students are leading this work. I thought serving food at a soup kitchen would be good enough. Their plans took us to an even greater end result. Our plans do not always line up with reality. Same as in life, we can plan and brainstorm a million things, but we often run into obstacles. This is a great way to tie in these life lessons, even as young as kindergarten.

Our classes then discussed ways to raise money to buy coats and collect old toys. Our students came up with selling hot chocolate during lunch. They wrote a letter to the school (writing standards) announcing this fundraiser, made posters to promote, and solved problems along the way. Kindergarten and first graders raised $1,332! Just let your minds wrap around that. In kindergarten, we tied in standards like estimation and sorting money into similar coins and bills. We used those groups to count by 1's, 5's, and 10's.

We had our first grade friends dig deeper into local homeless shelters. They found the Dayspring Center and chose this place due to it helping homeless children. Did you know that there are only 2 homeless shelters in Marion County that keep families together? The Dayspring Center is one of these. They researched, read, and found the most needed items. This gave us a new direction. We discussed how these items might be more beneficial to them instead of coats.

My kindergarten class researched and compared prices (math standard) for each item we needed. We made a chart to show the items we needed and the different prices at each store. This was a great lesson on comparing. For kindergarteners, we looked at the dollar amount and discussed which price was more/less. Mrs. Daniel's class took our research and made a budget for us. They decided how many of each item we needed and how much money we could spend on each item. Then came the fun part.

We scheduled a night for parents and our students to go shopping for our donation items. We took over Target and my heart almost burst. The excitement was beaming from our kids. They got to see how their hard work and money bought all of these items for people in need.

We quickly scheduled a time to deliver these items to the Dayspring Center. We packed our bus to the rim with our donations and artwork piece. We literally had bags on our laps. After unloading our donations and having our students share our project, we got blessed by Ms. Janice and Ms. Monica, two of Dayspring's workers and volunteers. They poured words of encouragement and love into our hearts. Tears flowed and hearts warmed. It's hard to find words to match the joy and thankfulness of Ms. Janice and Ms. Monica. One thing that stayed with me was a comment from Ms. Janice,


"You can teach them math and you can teach them lessons like this that they can take into the real world."


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