The Spice Girls reunited and sang their greatest hits while riding on top of glitter taxicabs. Elaborate dance numbers highlighted Mary Poppins and The Beatles. Michael Phelps became the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. These are all images seen by millions during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England. Imagine what visuals the television screens would portray if the Olympics were brought to Texas.
This premise guided a Project Based Learning (PBL) assignment at Cross Timbers Middle School (CTMS) recently where seventh-grade Texas history classes sought to convince the International Olympic Committee to bring the Olympics to Texas in 2020.
“This has made me want to do PBLs for the rest of the year,” said Liz Griffin, CTMS history teacher. “The research skills that the kids learned through this process will be beneficial for them in every subject and for the rest of their lives. I hope I am helping to create inquisitive lifelong learners.”
Students worked in small groups to construct an effective presentation that would persuade a group of panelists to select their Olympic bid. The presentations included a video highlighting the candidate city, a brochure for the athletes about local attractions in the area, and a special spotlight honoring a Native American element in the host city they selected. Students called hotels, sponsors and potential venues about hosting various events and also had to create a fluid advertising theme and logo that was present throughout their presentation.
The Olympics PBL introduced a new way of thinking for student Adrian Morales.
“It was challenging at some points of it but that's what made it a better learning experience,” Adrian said. “Without a challenge or a goal there will never be a real ‘learning’ experience. It would be like cramming for a test the night before. You may do well on the test but it would be much easier to forget the information afterward.”
Once students completed the research, they presented their proposals to a group of panelists including Narragansett Group Chief Executive Officer Joe King and Chief Operations Officer Tom Kormandy, who both serve as members of the 2024 Dallas Olympic bid committee. Other panelists included a counselor, bank manager, pastor, business owner, attorney, fitness instructor, real estate broker and several members of local government.
By bringing in business leaders and members of the community, this PBL incorporated several objectives of LEAD 2021 including: designing engaging, differentiated work for students, moving from a teacher to a learner platform, and involving the community in the daily activities of our campuses.
CTMS teacher Sarah King says the PBL has completely revolutionized the way she looks at her classroom.
“Encouraging kids to challenge themselves and to be self-driven has been far more rewarding that I ever anticipated,” King said. “Normally when I teach about the regions and Native American tribes of Texas, I show a PowerPoint, give out notes, do an activity, and give students a test. I thought that by doing a PBL, I would lose quality of instruction; however, I discovered that I came to know my kids on a more personal level. I was able to directly hear their thoughts and struggles and help guide them individually."
This guidance allowed students to reach new heights in their own learning and, after their presentations, perhaps we’ll see the Olympics in Texas in 2020! Stay tuned…