Mitchell sixth-grade class using project-based assessment instead of tests
Carnival games are taking over Amanda Hargreaves’ classroom.
The sixth-grade teacher at Mitchell Middle School is implementing a new way of learning into her science classes: no more tests. And this new learning style has taken on the form of cardboard carnival games.
Instead of paper and pencil tests, cardboard creations fill her classroom as she assesses students through project-based learning. To better understand Newton's Laws of gravity, force and motion, Hargreaves’ students have taken the last few weeks to show off their skills through skee ball, football toss and other handmade games.
“I tell my students all the time if you can memorize a definition, that’s fantastic. But what’s most important is being able to see science in everyday life,” Hargreaves said. “And in here it’s carnival games … Now they’re putting that information they learn into something they have knowledge of.”
Using cardboard, the students are tasked with creating a game using vocabulary and key lessons learned in class. Each project must include a description on how Newton’s Laws are present, showing the students understand the subject.
For sixth-grader Keenah Escobin, it’s a bright pink and blue skee ball game called “Rolling Friction.”
As the tennis balls roll against the cardboard skee ball game, Escobin explained friction is created — one of her class’s key science words.
After rolling a few tennis balls, Escobin returned to inspect her project, which was “really hard” to figure out how to make it stand on its own.
But she didn’t mind. It meant she didn’t have to take a test, and she also knew the ins and outs of Newton’s Laws.
“It doesn’t feel like you’re taking a test,” Escobin said. “You’re just having fun.”
All of Hargreaves’ students are broken up into groups. Between her four sixth-grade science classes, she has approximately 20 projects being completed in her classroom.
While it creates a bit of a mess, Hargreaves is happy as it means her students are working hard to make the best project, while also learning valuable teamwork skills.
Cooperative learning is a “huge skill” for her students, Hargreaves said, and another lesson she wanted students to learn on top of Newton’s Laws.
“I asked the kids if they liked this better than a paper and pencil test and of course they all said ‘Yes,’ ” Hargreaves said with a laugh. “But it's my hope that they’re learning as much as they can, like I said, to apply to things they see every day.”
Already she’s seeing a difference in her students as they understand the science concepts. The vocabulary she’s teaching can be overheard in their everyday language.
And she couldn’t be happier.
“Science is all around them,” Hargreaves said. “They’ll say ‘The stuff you’re teaching us is what we see all the time, we just know what it’s called now,’ and different things like that. It’s fun.”