Citizens of our contemporary world need to know how to ask questions, find information, critically analyze, and synthesize that information to communicate their opinions and learning to real effect. The myriad skills needed to do this should be developed throughout a child’s academic career.

In Action 

Personal projects are a part of every student’s year at Prairie Creek. For each of their projects, the children:
1.    Ask a question or questions
2.    Find resources
3.    Take notes
4.    Organize information
5.    Teach others what they’ve learned through writing, visual, and, often, oral presentations

In kindergarten, children often work with an older child who helps them read books and record ideas. Kindergartners delight in sharing what they’ve learned, often in a book they’ve written and illustrated or a model they’ve constructed.

As a student works on more projects, his or her research becomes more sophisticated. In second and third grade, children use multiple sources and rely on structured note-taking sheets to guide their research. They learn how to use an index and table of contents to research more efficiently.

By fourth grade students learn to critically assess the value of different resources. They share what they learn in organized paragraphs, not just bullet points. They present their learning orally to an audience and learn how to respond to questions with poise and accuracy.

Finally in fifth grade, students work with a mentor on their Honors Project. This project takes months to complete and often involves interviews, trips, and original research. The mentor guides and supports the inquiry of the child, collaborating in discussions and intellectual exploration. Students share their work in a culminating presentation that often lasts half an hour. In addition, they create a book for the school library and design a visual to teach members of the community about their learning.

Because of personal projects, children at Prairie Creek see themselves as students and teachers. School is not a static place to receive information but a place to explore one’s passions and share them with others.

Honors Project Resources
Mentors FAQ
Choosing a Topic
Finding a Mentor
Beginning the Quest
Possible Resources
Taking Notes
Organizing Your Thoughts
Writing Interesting Nonfiction
Authentic Nonfiction
Revising Ideas
Editing Ideas
Sharing Your Work
Project Assessment Rubric
Student Mentor Parent Responsibilities
Printable Topic and Mentor Confirmation Form
Printable Know and Wonder Chart
Printable Topic/Detail Two Column Notes
Printable Important/Interesting Two Column Notes
Printable Learned/Still Wonder Chart
Printable Text/Coding Sheet
Printable Presentation Plan

We have been inspired in our Honors Project work by Nonfiction Matters (Stephanie Harvey). We highly recommend it to parents and teachers alike.