3 Ways to Make Class Projects Fun


Wichita State University students in the Elliot School of Communication  demonstrate three ways  to add zip to classroom projects of any kind.

  1. Hands-On. Projects where students actually make something, not just a slideshow followed by the students reading the slides aloud. In the Elliot School example, the students not only made their own “instruments” but they made the video as well. Can we go beyond speeches, debates, collages, and posters and inspire our students to actually “make” something?
  2. Simplicity. I have no idea what the actual assignment the Wichita State students were asked to do, but it strikes me that they found a simple solution. Although this video is quite minimalistic- a group of college students drumming for about 90 seconds, it left me smiling at the end. Minimal instructions, minimal time, minimal budget-maximum creativity.
  3. Community. As an introvert, I generally loathe group projects, where school, like life, one person does 90% of the work and the credit is shared equally, or the group is stuck following a dull idea, simply because the “leader” persuaded the others to do it. That being said, we humans are social creatures, and finding ways to engage our social nature is an important part of increasing the enjoyment of the project. Whether this is through an actual group project-as a parent, I beg of you make sure the “group” part is done at school. We are all too busy and have such varied family needs that trying to get a group of students together in the evening and weekend is too much work. If it is a group project, let the students do individual work at home, research, drafting, etc. and then let the group work during class time.  For sure, saving time for a communal sharing and celebration will likely be appreciated by nearly all of your students!

Questions for Discussion

  1. How do you make your projects fun?
  2. How do you ensure all students are engaged-introverts, extroverts, analytical, creative?
  3. How do you assess the project?
  4. How do you monitor the project on an ongoing basis?
  5. What have been the most enjoyable or results?
  6. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

Screen Time and Youth

For an excellent article on the implications of screen time on child and adolescent development, please read Dan Digmann’s article  on the work of Central Michigan University researcher, Dr. Sarah Domoff and the work of the Family Health Research Lab.

One of the most revelatory findings in this article is the finding that youth are engaged with digital media on average 7 hours per day. Yes, longer than they are in a classroom. Although it is not mentioned in the article, I am guessing they are not writing their own code, reading Milton’s collected poetry, or solving systems of equations on Khan Academy!

The lab is investigating the health effects on children, such as the correlation with obesity and other negative health outcomes. Additionally, the lab hopes to develop research based tips for “effective media parenting.”


For more information on Dr. Domoff and the Family Health Research Lab, please check out the Science, Math and Technology page of this website.

It includes a link to a television news feature on this work including the finding that over 50% of the time their was no parent/child interaction during the child’s use of digital screen time. Also,  parents with higher levels of education tended to interact more and encourage their children to view educational media.

In my opinion, this has significant implications for a child’s development, especially when we know from Hart and Risley’s research how essential parent-child interaction is for language development as they highlighted in their seminal research, The Thirty Million Word Gap. 

A big thank you to Dr. Domoff for helping with this blog’s core mission, and taking the time to answer questions that might help high school teachers promote students’ research literacy, which is also found on the Science, Math and Technology page.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How young do children engage in social media?
  2. How many subjects were in the study?
  3. How was the data collected and analyzed?
  4. What would a possible null hypothesis be for this research?
  5. What do you “guess” might be the correlation between screen time and obesity?
  6. What other negative health outcomes might there be?
  7. Is there a difference between type of screen time and cognitive development?
  8. To create more context, why are parents allowing their children to engage in so much screen time?
  9. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”




Research Partnerships at New Mexico State University

Congratulations to New Mexico State University for their inclusion of high school students in an immersive research experience. 

Readers of this blog know that one of my missions is to support and encourage these wonderful collaborative experiences to help inspire our students. For too long there has been a huge chasm between the different levels of the educational system which I feel has done a tremendous disservice to our students.

In this climate of punitive high stakes testing in which end of semester common assessments can determine a teacher’s employment future, it is no wonder they avoid labs and research-who has the time? In this climate of diminished funding for public higher education, where professors futures are determined by their research output and ability to secure grant funding, who has time to work with students, let alone high schoolers?


Yet, we all know collaboration, communication, innovation, critical thinking, and research literacy are necessary to truly fulfill the promise and potential of our public educational system, a system that to truly serve the common good should be a seamless Pre-k-16 system. A system in which content knowledge and skill application are interwoven.

At New Mexico State 5 high school students were immersed in the College of Engineering and learned design, project management, programming, 3-d printing, as well as other essential research skills. One of the most important skills I would suggest was to deal with the frustration and mistakes imbued in any creative process.

Thanks to writer Tiffany Acosta for her article and New Mexico State University for jumping in the messy world of innovation and inspiring us all!

Questions for Discussion

  1. What were some of the highlights for the high school students?
  2. What were some of the benefit from the “near-peer” NMSU Engineering students?
  3. How could they consider expanding this or “scaling” this project?
  4. How could this model be implemented in other disciplines?
  5. How can high school and university level staff more effectively collaborate?
  6. What else does this inspire you “dream, learn, do?”

Chocolate and Developing Diabetes-Research


Margaret Nagle from The University of Maine has posted about research which seems to suggest that eating a bit of chocolate each week can reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

This is a great post for teachers to help high school students analyze research design and results. While the post does not go into a great amount of detail of design and data, there is enough here for a brief introduction or review of research design in order to help students to develop the basics of “thinking” like a researcher.

The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal is an impressive multi-disciplinary study conducted by researchers from the University of South Australia and the University of Maine of nearly 1,000 subjects followed over a five year period.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What specifically did the research conclude?
  2. What are possible explanations of this conclusion, according to the researchers?
  3. From what different disciplines were the researchers from?
  4. What is a research grant?
  5. Who were the subject groups in this study?
  6. How much chocolate was consumed to achieve this health benefit? Did eating more chocolate make subjects more healthy?
  7. How is this correlational research? What does that actually mean?
  8. Professor Elias suggests that clinical trials are necessary to establish whether only dark chocolate is beneficial? How would you design this research? What would your variables be? What is your hypothesis?
  9. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

The Twickenham Press and The Lark Ascending



Teachers of Humanities and all high school English teachers rush home, pour yourself a cup of decaf green tea, add a drop of honey, and check out these amazing resources! Whether you decide to use them in lesson plans or just for your own personal enjoyment, enrichment and “soul-nourishment,” you will be glad to have stumbled across these lovingly created literary gems.

  1. The Milton Society. This is the home of fellow “Word Pressians” at the scholarly society dedicated to the study and dissemination of Milton’s works. I think an astute teacher might review the works in progress page as a resource, but also as an opportunity to discuss exactly what a literary scholar does. A review of some of the books, chapters, papers, could be used as as springboard for students to generate their own research ideas, and increase the quality of their own theses. I think in general, we see that students try to write too broadly. But also, as a discussion of how an artist or body of literature can impact a culture. I think the link section is most valuable, however, as it links directly to several additional resources (below.)
  2. The John Milton Reading Room. “Fly envious Time, till thou run out thy race.” You can spend a lot of time here in this Dartmouth College site. It features the complete poetry and a selection of Milton’s prose. A wonderful resource to be lost and/or regain’d.
  3. The Twickenham Press and The Lark Ascending. Kudos to The Twickenham Press for being the digital home to the dramatic readings of classic literature by now defunct performance group, The Lark Ascending. This group performs not only the work of Milton, but Whitman, Eliot, Wordsworth and others. It serves as a reminder that poetry must be heard, not just read! Excellent work.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How does a researcher decide on a topic to study?
  2. What impact did John Milton have on Western Literature?
  3.  Brainstorm a list of potential Milton paper topics and fine tune these to thesis statements.
  4. Why is it essential to hear, not just read poetry?
  5. Read a little about the origins of the Twickenham Press. Who are some significant “self-published” authors?
  6. What was the mission of The Lark Ascending? Has your classroom had a poetry performance day lately?
  7. What else does this inspire you to”dream, learn, do?”