Bringing 20% Projects to Lakeview 7th Graders

7th graders have begun a new project in ELA, Science, and Social Studies. This interdisciplinary project serves as a capstone for 7th grade, combining the skills students have practiced and learned and putting them to use collaboratively. The 20% Project is modeled after Google’s philosophy of giving employees 20% of their time to pursue projects they are passionate about. This freedom has lead to the development of ideas such as the autonomous car. While we don’t expect students to be inventing anything, it’s empowering for students to have the opportunity to use the design process along with their research skills, resourcefulness, and empathy to pursue a passion of theirs. Schools around the country have begun to adopt this project as a way to develop the 21st-century skills our students need.
Kevin Brookhouser is credited as a pioneer on this topic. Here are his students sharing what they’ve done with his support and guidance. Our students don’t have the time to do the same (yet), but here’s a sample of what’s possible when students are empowered to use their skills:
While we expected this project to be embraced by students (as the “WOW Day” was in 2011), I think we’re all surprised how quickly students took ownership of this project and took off with the planning. Here are some examples of student projects:
  • Create a YouTube channel to make videos on how to fix computer and software problems
  • Create a book for incoming 6th graders or new students to help with their transition to Lakeview
  • Create care packages for active duty military overseas to let them know people care about them. Use extra toiletries from hotels
  • Have a book drive to give underprivileged kids an opportunity to have books to read
  • Would like to learn Serbian so he can communicate with family and build better bonds with them. Would like to dub a tv in Serbian as his product.
Students will be given all of ELA/Science/SS, every Friday, to develop these plans. Mrs. Screenshot 2017-05-03 at 9.03.26 AMGemmell has designed a document students are using to organize their ideas. A critical part of this project is the “Design Thinking” component, in which students reflect to understand how their project can be improved. This includes realizing the plan won’t work, being rejected, and/or failing. That “failing forward” mentality a crucial 21st-century skill, which is why we’re supporting students through this process.
The final product could look like one of three things:
  • A successfully completed product, project or creation.
  • A successfully planned or constructed project which will be completed at a later date.
  • A project or idea which failed, with reflection on what could be improved in the next iteration.
This project will conclude on June 1st and 2nd – the last two days of school – with students sharing their projects and reflecting on the process. It’s exciting to see the students so electric about school and using the skills they’ve learned all year.