[Reflection 2] How do you facilitate projects?


“What I can do is help them believe they are somebody with a role and when they play this role game they imagine what their student role doesn’t allow them to imagine.”

  • fracqua

This is so weird. In my mind, being a student means being all of those things because I think of life as school and learning happening in many places, not just in the classroom. I suspect this is largely because both my parents were/are teachers who believe in and practice experiential learning.

This whole thread is really interesting to me. I’m struggling through early symptoms of burn out after our science fair (Gr. 5 and 6) which was painful with student lack of action during class and many lunch hours and after-school hours given to working with small groups.

I have decided I really need to scaffold all of this with experiments that focus on different elements so my students have enough experience to draw on and enough knowledge to understand the process from driving question to identifying sources of error so they know that identifying sources of error is not something they can skip because they didn’t make any mistakes…

I thought I had given them enough structure with a google doc outlining steps and giving instructions but they don’t have enough frame of reference for my instructions to make sense. That said, they were also overwhelmed by it. It was too big a document for them to digest. I’m thinking I need to have weekly snippets/bi-weekly bits and rubrics.

I am at a loss. I really don’t know how to develop accountability and rigor in my students. They got to chose their own topics, (and I naively thought that would address motivation) and we used a variety of science fair books as models and they adapted them with writing driving questions (painfully slow in itself.) Some chose a specific topic because they wanted to look good at the science fair. (No more volcanoes!!!) Which brings me to the consideration of decision-making and knowing our own interests. Having danced to my own drummer all my life, I did not give enough reflection to the social performance aspects. I think I need to re-read Dan Pink’s Drive.

I struggled to get them to understand we were examining one variable and measuring it’s outcome in the context of their experiment.

I’d really appreciate some suggestions and insights.


Dear Shelly,

I too experience fierce disappointment every now and then. I believe it is unavoidable, especially when you work hard and hope to get some result out of your efforts.

Kids, I believe, don’t care about knowledge. All they care about is our appreciation. And they hate to disappoint us or their parents. So, many of them protect themselves from such risk by showing little interest or by disturbing activities: they are in fact warning us to lower our expectations on them.

Well, don’t, Shelly. Show them you don’t give them up, and tell them you are waiting for their shining day. If they finally have that day, they will be yours forever.

It sounds naif, but it has worked for me more than once and I hope it’ll work for you too.
Good luck, Francesca


Thank you for the words of encouragement. I was told I need to reduce the scope of my expectations and build gradually. I can see the reasoning in that but low expectations pain me. I think low expectations are a disservice to kids, especially ones in families who have lived several cycles of poverty. Iknow hard work and skills are no guarantee of opportunity, but there is a lot more chance of being proactive in creating opportunity when a work eithic and skill building kick in.


I love when I have designed a project and believe that I have prepared for every possible scenario, only to have a students ask a question that I don’t have an answer for. For me this is the beauty of CS education and creative learning, being comfortable not having all of the answers. Only when there is a level playing field in a classroom or learning setting will students really be able to push themselves, trust themselves, and work with their peers. If the teacher is always seen as having the answer, then students tend to not rely on their ability to answer their own questions, and explore potential solutions.

I’d say my project facilitation style is organized, allowing me to be comfortable supporting structured chaos as students dig into exploring, tinkering and learning.


I don’t have the chance to do this in my job, but I’ve taught students in the past when I was younger. I remember facilitating open-ended projects with 2nd & 3rd graders when I was a classroom assistant in 12th grade; the biggest thing I had to realize was that students needed very little scaffolding or encouragement once they knew they had the power and freedom to pursue their own creative ideas!! They sometimes got stuck making an idea a reality, but apart from the small amount of help they needed to get started in a new medium, they were very comfortable exploring. It helped me remember why we are created this way (as curious humans); we’re all naturally playful and creative because that’s the way we learn about the world around us!!

One other time that was very interesting was two days ago when I went to the Exploratorium (a very hands-on science museum in San Francisco which is amazing for literally all ages; I have a membership and I LOVE it) with two of my friends, one who works in finance and the other in veterinary medicine. As someone into tech and education, I wasn’t sure how much they would enjoy it, but I realized once we were there that it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy learning in such a hands-on and engaging way!! Places like that expose our natural curiosity and excitement; we had a wonderful time trying to figure out how different exhibit worked & creating things like a stop-motion animation!!


That fear feels so familiar, for myself and for my peers, between college and working in industry afterward! I’m really curious if students who get the chance to go through most or all of their education in a project-based environment have much less fear; I feel like that’s one of the key qualities that will keep people going into adulthood and empower them to build and create things in the world.


I love that just giving the titles was enough to empower them to have direction & a purpose; it’s a great lesson for creating in any context (work, startup, project, classroom, etc) – when people know what domain they should focus on, you no longer have to hold their hand as much for “what to do” step-by-step


I facilitate creative projects in my teaching role as a Visual Arts teacher constantly. I have experienced similar things to many of the posters on here. Students definitely find challenge in the open-ended nature of many projects; however, I believe this is a learned skill. Many of my students began the year being totally overwhelmed with an open-ended project and it would take them a very long time to get started or develop a concept. However, once they have an opportunity to do this once or twice, they get better. They start to trust their ideas, their creativity, and their creative process. This can relate back to the Creative Learning Spiral - students revise this spiral often and as a result of their experiences. I think it is important to encourage students to spend time in the Imagining and Generating phase of the Creative Process and this is one that they often like to rush through to get to the “actual” project. Spending time here allows ideas to grow and flourish and can help when faced with a creative block later on.


I usually start by definition:

The Mission
Our Purpose
A Vision
On Horizon


As an educator my thinking has evolved over the years in terms of PBL, Design Thinking, Maker Movement, etc. over the past few years that have turned into jargon.

Now, I look for projects that have shown a proof of concept of sorts outside of my own doing, and work to model that project with my students and peers. Then, that passion kicks in when I get excited about something that I just know can work!

From there, design what I need around me to create that environment, and work with students who want to build and play.

Sometimes, if I am the only one excited about it, the project won’t take off as well. Others though, thanks to the spread of information, students already know something about it, and it tends to take off easier.