The first project I got to work on this year was part of a school-wide Project Based Learning (PBL) unit that centered around the creation of a mini-mall. Sheridan Road STEM is a brand-new school in many senses of the word. There are new staff, new furniture, shiny fun new paint on the wall, new technology, and a whole new way of thinking about what school looks like. While there are all these changes, the school playground is dismal. There are not many things for students to do, the equipment is old and rusted. The “entry event” for this PBL was to show a video on Octoball. The goal was to use the money raised from the Sheridan Road Mini-Mall to purchase the materials to build their very own Octoball court.

This project involved the entire school as well as the wider community. Students began by researching products they could make themselves and then sell. They then had to decide on a list of materials, a budget, write and present their business proposal to local community leaders like the Superintendent and School Board members, and decide how much to charge for their product in order to pay back their initial loan and make a profit. Read more about their business plan meetings here. 

Once students began to make their products, I worked with them to help them film commercials to market and sell their products. It began with a brief overview tutorial of iMovie on the iPad. The majority of students used the trailer templates so they spent the majority of their time working on making the video and not on learning all the ins and outs of iMovie. The trailers are so easy! They are pre-set templates with transitions, music, and cast shots built right in! Kids had a lot of choices – from a Horror theme to Action Adventure, to Bollywood themed trailer templates.


Photo courtesy of J. Benavides

To help the students create their commercials, we had them look at the storyboard template, make a list of photos they would need, the text of their message, and the order things would go in. Students practiced, edited, and, when they were finished we made a YouTube playlist where we uploaded the commercials and used the playlist the night of the event to show all the commercials to the visitors to the mini mall.

The culmination of this event was a shopping mall. Each group set up their table with their products for sale. They had signage displaying their prices, many of the workers were wearing their products, and they were very excited to sell what they had made. The entire night was an awesome success. Aside from the sense of ownership all the students felt over their products, they learned so much throughout the process. Students used math to figure out their budget and inventory, they had to work together to create their products and marketing plans, they used their public speaking skills to present their business plans, and they successfully sold products they made. At the end of the unit, students wrote reflections on the experience.

Students were able to raise over $1200 toward their new playground! More importantly, they were able to take complete control of their learning and make it meaningful for themselves. What an awesome experience for everyone involved!

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