McKamy Middle School 6th graders in Kay Walder’s class were given a similar opportunity when they were challenged to complete a project-based learning (PBL) activity to create rubrics and children’s books based on the solar system unit.
“Due to the fact that the solar system unit is broad and many students are familiar with space, the experience of writing a book allowed them to pursue an area of space they were interested in along with incorporating other core subjects, such as creative writing, which is something that does not happen often in science,” Walder said. “Students also surveyed their peers, which included a math component, along with researching history about space travel and equipment.”
The other half of the project involved developing a grading rubric with parameters and examples of below standard and approaching standard.
“It was easy for students to create examples of this, but challenging for them to incorporate concise sentences that where on level with the rubric that they created in their books,” Walder said.
Students at the Flower Mound campus off Old Settlers Road also included checkpoints in the rubric for peer assessment, which allowed them to use the rubric as a grading tool.
The objective of the PBL was to create a children’s book about traveling through the solar system. Students had the choice to create a traditional book or an eBook.
“Allowing choice gave them the ability to experience freedom of expression especially with their artwork,” Walder said.
To culminate the project, students read the books to one another and graded them using the rubric. They were excited to share their final products with each other.
Overall, incorporating the PBL was a fun and gratifying experience for Walder.
“As a middle school science teacher this was a challenging process, but rewarding to allow the students to experience something different,” Walder said. “I love teaching science because it is inquisitive and allows for the ‘why’ question. In science when the students write, it is technical writing, which is valuable, but there is value in allowing them to write creatively because it allows them to use high-level thinking to apply their facts in such a way that is engaging.”
This spring, Walder hopes her students get the opportunity to share their children’s books with 4th graders from surrounding elementary schools.
Elizabeth Haas is part of the public relations team at the Lewisville Independent School District.