On Thursday, February 23, the Tara High School students of Freshman Academy showcased their recently completed children’s books to a full crowd of family, school, and community supporters. Over the course of this Humanities Amped supported project, eighteen student teams wrote and illustrated original children’s books centered on overcoming challenges. Their themes included the value of supportive friends, positive risk-taking, and mental health.
Since October, Humanities Amped Education Director Dr. Emma Gist and Alumni Program Leader Ms. T. George have been working with Freshman Seminar teacher Mr. Barry Jackson to design and facilitate this classroom project. The students began by sharing their own stories of overcoming challenges and identifying the resources needed in their own experiences. They then reviewed example children's books, collaboratively drafted a rubric for their own books, and presented early drafts of their stories to their classmates for feedback. The team members each chose a project role–author, editor, illustrator, team manager, or print publisher–and took responsibility for their piece of the final project. The teams carefully planned out the flow of their book before drafting, editing and revising, illustrating, and finalizing their work.
At Family Literacy Night, the students showed off their incredible work and shared their reflections on the process with those who attended. Visitors asked the student teams about their books and also about what they learned, and were invited to share praise with the student teams on notecards. Following the showcase, six students shared what they learned from the project in a brief presentation. The evening concluded with a seafood dinner provided by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.
The success of this Freshman Seminar book project affirms what we at Humanities Amped believe so passionately about project-based learning: students learn best when they’re engaged in creating an actual product for the real world as a way to answer a driving question. As Dr. Gist shared at Family Literacy Night, the exciting outcome of project-based learning is that it results in incredible student products. The truth of project-based learning, however, is that while the final product matters, it’s not actually the most significant part: what matters more is what the students learn throughout the process about collaborative teamwork, time management, editing and revising, persistence, and making adjustments when your plans don’t go your way. Importantly, projects like this one give students an opportunity to learn about themselves, and showcases like Family Literacy Night give them a chance to see themselves as writers and creators, capable of creating work worth celebrating in the world beyond their classroom.
In class and at the event, students shared that engaging in this project has taught them about time management, leadership, and responsibility. The most common outcome of the project that the students have reported is their growth in their ability to effectively collaborate: to be successful in this project, the students were challenged to communicate with each other, resolve conflict, and work through different ideas.
"To create a children's book it takes patience, dedication, and time. Communication as well. Communication truly goes a long way. Especially with me being in a group, it was important to communicate. Through arguments and heated discussions, it was also important to be mature. To let got and focus on what's really important."
- Freshman Seminar Student
When asked about the most challenging part of this project, one student said, "Communication." She reflected on a conflict her team had, and then added, "Later on we agreed--we worked together and decided to put that stuff behind us." Another student shared with his class, "What I learned in the process of this project was collaboration and mind blowing techniques of brainstorming. And how essentially we all came together and finished our project using teamwork and respecting each other." When asked about his response to the project’s driving question, What do young people need to know about how to overcome a challenge?, one student responded "Don't let petty things get in the way of what you want for your life."
We at Humanities Amped are incredibly grateful for our partnership with Tara High School and for the privilege of doing this work alongside the teachers, administrators, and students here. Freshman Seminar is only one piece of the Amped Ecosystem, and we look forward to sharing more program celebrations with you!