SCVi Sophomores Model Choice, Reflection and Agency with Personal Projects
Project-based learning includes key instructional elements such as learners sharing their work publicly, receiving feedback in order to revise their work and having choice and voice on various aspects of their projects. As learners’ skills become more advanced, facilitators can take the concept of voice and choice further. If one takes the voice and choice concept to the limit, you have the SCVi 10th Grade Personal Project.
Even in a year of distance learning, this annual tradition continued under the guidance of 10th grade English facilitator Jodi Blinn. As learners transition to 11th grade and begin charting their future college and career opportunities, Blinn believes the Personal Project is key to their overall academic and personal development.
“Each learner’s goal is different, depending on their project,” Blinn said. “They get to determine the goal they are working toward, and it culminates in a final product.”
The Personal Project includes a process paper, a reflective journal, working with a mentor, producing a final product and a presentation. Learners have to address one of the Global Contexts from the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program.
Learners develop inherent skills throughout this process, including goal setting, research, time management, journaling, action planning, narrative writing, expository writing, oral communication and collaborating with a mentor. In addition to the skills, learners pursue an in-depth personal exploration with a great deal of freedom.
“Not all learners have started making all of the connections yet in terms of their academic work, personal interests and future application,” Blinn said. “But this starts that process.”
Types of Projects
Each year brings a unique sample of diverse, powerful projects, according to Blinn. Topics have included art, skateboarding, travel, gardening, tattooing, cooking, social justice, criminal justice, nursing, psychology, fashion design, photography, technology, aeronautics, blogging, podcasting and voice acting. See this year’s complete list of project topics and driving questions by SCVi 10th graders.
“I am always impressed and inspired by the diverse projects based on their personal passions and interests,” Blinn said. “I love learning about new topics, industries or technologies that I’ve had limited or no experience with.”
Project-based learning emphasizes reflection, which results in deeper learning. Blinn said learners are expected to engage in a series of reflective questions and then share those reflections publicly in their paper and presentation.
“This level of reflection gives the learner the opportunity to honestly evaluate their effectiveness in completing this project,” Blinn said. “It also puts the focus on the process, instead of the final product, and the valuable lessons they can learn from making mistakes.”
In addition to Blinn’s guidance throughout the entire project, a diverse group of SCVi and iLEAD staff as well as community members participate as assessors for final project presentations.
Being an assessor is a great way to see how learners have grown in so many aspects, according to Erika Cedeño, iLEAD SCVi’s Spanish and International Baccalaureate Spanish facilitator. “Learners put their soul into these projects, and their final products are often masterpieces,” Cedeño said. “I am beyond privileged to be part of their journey. It allows me to demonstrate how proud I am of them.”
Tamara Trost, an SCVi facilitator and design tech coordinator, was impressed with the quality of work, especially in the areas of photography and film. “I am confident many of these projects are the launching board for lifetime passions, college studies and careers,” Trost said.
There is also often a transformation taking place with the learners, according to iLEAD’s Director of Maker Outreach Matt Watson. “They often discover something about themselves, connect on a new level with a mentor or family member or develop a deeper appreciation for something they had not fully understood before,” Watson said.
These 10th graders indicated that they too enjoyed both the process and the final products and presentations. Although it was stressful at times, sophomore Carola Saenz Valiente said she learned things about herself and others through the process. “The sophomores demonstrated some powerful work and the passion behind it,” Valiente said. “I learned so much from this experience, and it inspired me to have new goals for the future.”
Sophomore Sierra Kogan said, “I was satisfied with my project and proud of what I am capable of doing.”
Sophomore Geffen Benloulu said, “I thought the personal project was a fun way to explore a new topic while keeping yourself motivated.”
Upward, Onward & Final Reflections
Blinn hopes to continue to guide 10th graders in their Personal Projects for years to come. She is aware that they will continue to evolve, and she continually works to improve both the process and experience.
“I am really proud of how resilient this year’s sophomores were,” Blinn said. “Modifying their projects and transitioning to all-virtual formats was not easy. But the majority of them persevered, stepped up and conquered all the challenges.”
In addition to the projects listed above, here are some additional sample final products to peruse:
Video: Zachary Blinn’s documentary on Building an RC Plane.