The holidays were fast approaching and Emily Burk, a Secondary Makerspace leader was wondering how to keep her students engaged.

Her 9th-12th grade students were completely checked out of the mandated online curriculum, and because of CoVid, their opportunities for social interaction and hands on learning were quickly diminishing.

That’s when Emily and a few of her colleagues came up with a brilliant idea. They scrapped the online curriculum in exchange for real wood scraps.

Her students would transform leftover wood scraps from the makerspace into beautiful holiday gifts for loved ones- using the design thinking process and their own imagination.

Emily didn’t give them much of a prompt:

As Emily calmly describes,

“We said here are the wood scraps, materials, equipment, and tools…now choose a recipient to make a gift for, and give it to them.”

The transformation in her learners was instantaneous:


The ‘Art of Giving’ Project transformed her learners from apathetic consumers of online course curriculum, into active and engaged citizens who Emily describes as “more confident in their decision making and taking risks.”

Their holiday gifts also weren’t too shabby…

What’s your project idea to help transform students from passive consumers of online curriculum, into active, collaborative and engaged community minded citizens?

I would love to help you find it.

Starting January 16th, during the 21st Century Learning Conference, I am leading an extended remote workshop series to help participants design, assess and manage a project-based experience in a remote/ hybrid environment. With a community of learners you will discover how to engage and empower even your most reluctant learners; from project launch to project completion.

You can learn more and enroll below:

Community Based Project-Based Learning Workshop