After splitting my students into groups of 4 yesterday, we spoke about the long term plans for the Greenhouse Project. They each received a Team Contract and Team Calendar and spent the class filling them out.
The contract is an outline that lays out the rights and responsibilities for each member of the group. It needs to be filled out and signed with the consent of all group members. This means that each group contract will look slightly different, but is a consensus of all parties. I REALLY like this idea because it prevents certain discussions later.
If I assign the roles, there is benefit to having them work outside of their comfort zones, but (as anyone who has carried a group through a project in college) the job still needs to get done whether someone does it well or not.
The contract seems to bring a level of maturity to the process where each team member must actively determine for which role they would be best suited and can benefit the team. The assessment at the end will be a group grade, but there will also be individual grades looking at whether or not the members completed the agreed-upon tasks.
They also, as a group, decide what happens with members who do not live up the bargain. They are responsible to their peers, rather than to me.
The scope of this project is...enormous. One teacher has me thinking about sunlight and pH of the soil. Another teacher has me thinking about planning a field trip to a local gardening center for research. I'm thinking about how to get stones engraved with local business names so we can honor sponsors.
In addition to all of this, I'm struggling with how much direction to give them and how much to let them run. We will have multiple conversations over the next few weeks, but even as someone who likes to say "here's the idea, now run with it" I'm debating about the amount of structure.
With that said, the groups worked VERY well today. All 3 were engaged in discussion over the contract, the roles they would take on and the timeline for the entire period.
I also had a conversation with the students from last week. They asked for my help on a problem and then immediately jumped all over everything, derailing my explanation before I could even begin.
Me: "I know you're excited and curious and want to ask questions..."
Them: "If I have a question, I need to ask it!"
Me: "Yes. And you should! Curiosity is how we learn. But I also have a plan and a path. It's likely that I'm going to answer your question in the next breath, but I don't get a chance to get there. On top of that, not everyone in the room thinks the way that you do and they need to be allowed to think and process. So here's my suggestion for you. When you have a question, ..."
Them: "Just shut up?"
Me: **pausing to allow the irony sink in a bit** "No. Don't shut up. When you have a question, write it down. Let me finish my thought and I may be answering your question. OR, better yet, you may figure out the answer on your own."
This entire conversation was held in quiet voices while I was sitting at the desk with them. I REALLY like these kids and I don't want to stifle their curiosity. I NEVER want them to think that I don't want them to ask questions. But I also want them to try to solve those problems themselves and to realize that they are part of a learning community.
Communities need to work together and respect the needs of all members.