A couple of years ago my principal sent me to a conference that taught about teaching students who are gifted. I left this presentation with an idea that I just love to implement whenever I can. It is project based learning where students choose an auditory project, a visual project, a kinesthetic project or a technological project. There were tons of options, but I chose 4 different projects and have stuck with those ever since... makes it easier for my kiddos to jump around to the different ones with little instruction.
Anyway, the best way I have done this was in social studies, especially with our famous american unit. My students have a choice to act out a play (kinesthetic), write a song (auditory), create a poster or book (visual) or create a pixie presentation (technological). The pixie presentation is always the most popular, but I work with them to take turns on the computer. These presentations are GREAT. I wish I could share the videos of the students doing them, but I don't want to invade anyone's privacy. When they were doing Abraham Lincoln, I actually had a child recite the beginning of the Gettysburg Address... he researched it on his OWN!
These projects aren't overwhelming at all. I give the kids plenty of books to use to "research." On the first day we go over all of the important information that I NEED to see in their presentations (for example... Washington was our first president, Washington was a leader during the Revolutionary War, etc.) They can add any additional information they want.
I am talking about this because we started our Earth Day projects today. This is also an awesome way to get kids talking about helping the Earth. Yesterday we read a couple of books and brainstormed ways to help the Earth. We read a couple more books today and then I gave them their projects. I have a small class this year and sadly don't have any this time around making a song.
I love the plays because one year I had kids do it as super heroes or "Earth Savers." I present this idea every year and they always go in this direction... We have the "Planet Protectors" who are comprised of Wally the Water Saver... Leo the Light Saver... and Tony the Trash Picker Upper. For their plays, they each offer ways to help save the Earth in their "specialty." They make their own costumes using old construction paper. On the last day, they present, I record on the ipad and post to vimeo for parents to see. It is so much fun and the learning is really happening... and all I do is monitor their creativity and every now and then steer them in the right direction, a win-win!
For Earth Day I use these great books from Scholastic... they feature the Kid Guardians (along with the super hero theme) and they help kids help the Earth. They are also a pretty easy read for kids to do themselves or to throw in a center!