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Personal Projects Inspire 10th Grade Learners, Facilitators


Educators have long talked about the concept of students owning their learning. Students who do so are motivated, engaged and self-directed. They can monitor their own progress and are able to reflect on their growth. 

At iLEAD-SCVi, facilitators and learners begin with the end in mind. Facilitators encourage their learners to take responsibility for their learning from day one. In 10th grade, the journey to true self-direction intensifies with a yearlong Personal Project.

For facilitator and Personal Project Coordinator Jodi Blinn, the process represents an opportunity for each sophomore to choose and explore one’s “why” for pursuing personalized areas of interest.

In order to give you an idea of what the Personal Project model is all about, here are some driving questions from the most recent sophomore projects:

  • How can I create my own website to inform, convince and persuade a large group of people to eat more vegan products?
  • How can I create a short video that raises awareness of the detrimental effects that sunscreen has on our reefs?
  • How can I build a positive community on Twitch?

Blinn said each learner’s goal is different depending on the project. “They get to determine the goal they are working toward and produce a final product that demonstrates it,” Blinn said.

Work on the sophomore year project begins at the end of the freshman year, when learners receive an overview of the project components, start to explore and brainstorm project ideas and begin journaling. “Learners are encouraged to identify a final project topic over the summer,” Blinn said.

Blinn said the Personal Project is aimed at increasing skills including goal-setting, time management, creating and executing action plans, journaling, professional research, narrative writing, academic expository writing, oral communication and collaborating with a mentor. 

In addition to students producing a paper, a final presentation and their individual products, Blinn said one of the biggest learning successes from these projects is each learner’s reflection throughout the project. “Reflection gives the learner the opportunity to honestly evaluate their effectiveness in completing this project,” Blinn said. “It also puts the focus on the process and the valuable lessons they can learn from making mistakes.”

Final Video Product by SCVi learner Miles Burks:

Blinn identified some of the key reflective questions learners address:

  • Does your project meet your plan/vision/criteria?
  • Is the product of high quality? How do you know?
  • How did you address challenges and/or create solutions to problems?
  • What would you do differently given another opportunity?
  • What did you learn and gain from doing this project?
  • What new questions have emerged from your project?
  • What obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them?
  • How did you grow as a person/learner?

In addition to these reflections, Blinn said, “Learners appreciate the experience as well as how organized the project is in terms of scaffolding of components over the course of the year. Many honestly reflect on the things they could have done better and how they can use what they learned in future projects.”

Final Video Product by Abby Blasberg:

Those fortunate enough to evaluate Personal Project presentations are equally impressed. iLEAD IB Diploma Coordinator and Developer Abbie Neall, who evaluated presentations this school year, said watching the learners be inspired by a topic and then develop their learning was very gratifying. “It’s a great way of ensuring that the learner is in charge of their education rather than having one imposed upon them,” she said.

Evaluators and parents have seen how the Personal Projects can have a long-lasting impact on the life direction of the learner. iLEAD SCVi 12th Grade English Language Arts Facilitator and Senior Advisor Cheryl Sena watched her daughter develop a love for music as she learned how to play the piano and take voice lessons to produce an EP for her 10th grade Personal Project. “To this day, she credits this experience with solidifying her love of singing,” Sena said.

After presenting their Personal Projects, many learners are also inspired to continue their personal learning journey. iLEAD-SCVi sophomore Katie Triandos, whose Personal Project was about oxybenzone, which is a common component of sunscreen, and coral bleaching, sees this project as an extension of her lifelong dreams. “Ever since I was 10, I have wanted to be a marine biologist,” Triandos said.

Triandos, who has obtained her Open Water Scuba Diver Certification and Advanced Open Water Diver Certification, said she has now been inspired to inform others about this crucial scientific work. She said the Personal Project was challenging and rewarding, and she is grateful that her Final Video Product on YouTube has received nearly 23,000 views. 

Final Video Product by Katie Triandos:

“In the end, this project inspired me,” Triandos said. “Now I want to create my own sunscreen made out of all-natural marine products.”

The inspired learning that happens through the Personal Project is not limited to the learners. As a facilitator who witnessed the development of these long-term projects this year, Blinn said, “I love learning about new topics, industries, or technologies I had no idea existed or with that I have limited experience. Some examples are upcycling, Twitch, electronic dance music, LARPing, and veganism, to name a few.”

Blinn is proud of the SCVi learners and their work on their Personal Projects. “These sophomores have demonstrated resilience,” she said. “This year, they all had to modify their projects and transition to a virtual format. This wasn’t easy, but the large majority of the learners stepped up and conquered this challenge.

See more sample final products and presentations from SCVi 10th graders:

Posted on May 21, 2020 in iLEAD Digest

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About the Author

Michael Niehoff is a teacher, leader, blogger, learner advocate, and the Education Content Coordinator at iLEAD Schools.
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Effective date: August 29, 2019

Maker Learning Network (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://ileadschools.org/ website (the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data.

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We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and we hold certain information.

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If you are from the European Economic Area (EEA), Maker Learning Network legal basis for collecting and using the personal information described in this Privacy Policy depends on the Personal Data we collect and the specific context in which we collect it.

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Maker Learning Network will retain your Personal Data only for as long as is necessary for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy. We will retain and use your Personal Data to the extent necessary to comply with our legal obligations (for example, if we are required to retain your data to comply with applicable laws), resolve disputes and enforce our legal agreements and policies.

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If Maker Learning Network is involved in a merger, acquisition or asset sale, your Personal Data may be transferred. We will provide notice before your Personal Data is transferred and becomes subject to a different Privacy Policy.

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Under certain circumstances, Maker Learning Network may be required to disclose your Personal Data if required to do so by law or in response to valid requests by public authorities (e.g. a court or a government agency).

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Maker Learning Network may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

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Our Policy on “Do Not Track” Signals under the California Online Protection Act (CalOPPA)

We do not support Do Not Track (“DNT”). Do Not Track is a preference you can set in your web browser to inform websites that you do not want to be tracked.

You can enable or disable Do Not Track by visiting the Preferences or Settings page of your web browser.

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If you are a resident of the European Economic Area (EEA), you have certain data protection rights. Maker Learning Network aims to take reasonable steps to allow you to correct, amend, delete or limit the use of your Personal Data.

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Important information regarding confidential student data

There is ongoing litigation between the California Department of Education and the Concerned Parent Association. A notice issued by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson states, “The lawsuit accuses CDE of widespread, systemic non-compliance by local educational agencies with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504. The CDE denies these allegations and is actively defending the litigation.”

The court has ordered CDE to release student and parent information to provide personally identifiable information (PII) – an act that can only be taken as an exception to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As a result, we are providing notice of the court order and directions to anyone wishing to object.

Please be advised that CDE will notify parents or students of whom are required to disclose information and those individuals may object directly to the court regarding this disclosure using the PDF link below:


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