No matter which way we slice it, this year has been incredibly tough. We’ve been through a global pandemic; required to teach in mediums we’ve never experienced before; stretched beyond our normal working hours; and socially distanced from the environment we know and love.

And yet we have endured. It is a testament to our resilience.

As we close out this tough year, how will you spend the final days with learners?

With grades closed and testing complete, there has never been a better time to engage students in experiences that build empathy, equity and emotional awareness.

Here are five project ideas for how to spend the final week.

1. Suitcase Project (Empathy): In this project, students pack a suitcase of most cherished items that help capture individual stories. The catch: they aren’t packing their own suitcases. The suitcase could be for refugees; holocaust survivors; victims of natural disasters; classmates; or those who have been hospitalized due to CoVid. Contents could include letters, photographs, poems, or artistic artefacts. Here is an overview for how Andrea Nieto, the originator of the project idea helps students ‘pack’ their suitcases.
Driving Question: If you only had time to pack a suitcase, what items would you include to share your story, identity and values? 

2. ‘Just’ Laws Podcast (Equity): In this project from ILEAD, students use the plight for social justice this past year as a window into exploring unjust laws, and exposing them in a podcast. Each podcast episode reveals an unjust law, its history, and how it can be remedied to improve social justice. Here is the student curated project and link to the podcast.
Driving Question: How can the re-writing of broken laws increase social justice and equity?

3. Living Through CoVid Class Book (Emotional Awareness):

In this project, students create a class book of vignettes, capturing a moment of their life this past year. It could be caring for a loved one, making a meal, connecting with relatives, redecorating their home, etc. Each vignette includes photographs, poetry, and student designed artwork. Here is a sample.
Driving Question: As authors, how can we capture and share stories that reveal our humanity? 


4. Student TED Talks Project (Equity, Emotional Well-Being, Empathy): Students pick a topic, devise a research question, and create a TED talk to deliver insights. Vail Mountain School had talks ranging from growing permaculture in the valley to ‘risk management for teens.’ Here is a sample program for the event.
Driving Question: How can TED Talks help our peers increase awareness and action on important issues?

5. What’s your Legacy Project? (Emotional Awareness): Students all work on personal passion projects to leave a ‘legacy’ for the next class, or lasting mark on the school (if leaving). Projects have included ‘survival guides,’ artistic murals honouring class values, books for the library, etc.
Driving Question: How can you leave a legacy for future students?

Got your own idea for how to use PBL to close out the year?!

Innovative educators would love to hear it! Share it in a comment below and I will add it to the post.