About 15 years ago — in November — I attended a Classroom Connect conference in Long Beach, CA. I cannot remember the speaker (it was a women) but I do remember the room — and the moment. She shared about David Warlick’s Global Grocery Project —
Oh, I am sure she shared many other things — but that one stuck — and lingered — and fermented a bit. And as I kept rolling it through my mind — though it was interesting — it was daunting. I wanted to host some sort of “data collection” project but I could not let it overwhelm….so I continued to twirl it in my brain…..until I came to 1 conclusion — we would gather info on the oreo cookie — since there were several variables of eating them — and see what happens……
And so I blasted out an email to my Email Group — and began my wandering into Online Projects. I honstely thought I would host 1 project — poof and be done. Never in a million years was the idea to be an Online Project host for 15 years an intentional goal — yet —
And as I wander down memory lane — I think of so many memories — some good, some not so good — but all that have molded technospud projects into jenuinetechprojects into ProjectsByJen.
Almost all the projects I have hosted can be found on this page: http://projectsbyjen.com/archives.htm – if you want to wander through —
But for now — here are 10 Memories I have — of my projects — since 1999 —
10. The DC Duck Project.
To this date, still my favorite project. A 23 day project as we waited for a Mallard Duck’s ducklings to hatch in front of the US Treasury Department. http://projectsbyjen.com/Projects/dcducks/dcduckshome.htm
The icing on the cake was the student who convinced his parents to DRIVE HIM TO THE duck to have his picture taken.
Not even an inkling of an idea for this project- – but WOO HOO memorable!! Something many of us will always ALWAYS remember!
9. Shoeless and Bark
I have to admit that I did not know a lot about Lewis and Clark — but their bi-centennial anniversary was coming up — and it just cried out for a project. So I put together a travel buddy project FILLED with a 5 day lesson plan, items of interest (maps, coins, etc) – plus 2 beanie babies — a cat named Shoeless and a dag named Bark — to help students learn more about Lewis and Clark. (To this day people still are figuring out that Shoeless and Bark rhyme with Lewis and Clark — grins, I thought that that was obvious.) http://projectsbyjen.com/Projects/snb2005/index.htm The first 2 times I hosted this project it was flawless…everyone followed through — no so much with the last 2 times. But my biggest memory from Shoe and Bark was when I received an email from my friend, Effie — who shared with me the story of how one of her shyest students came dressed as Pocahontas many months after the box had been at their school — for a party. The project had impacted her so — and she wanted to dress up to share with others. I still tear up about this one!
8. The name game
Once I started hosting projects — I realized that I truly was becoming a couch potato — but being Jen, I could not call myself that ordinary name — so I had to be clever — and I became a TechnoSpud. Clever, cute — and I had a graphic made especially for this:
But after a while — cutesy wasn’t what I was looking for — it lacked a bit of respect, a bit of professionalism — so I wandered over into Jenuinetech. (still cute — but a bit more professional). But then, a few years ago — I did not want TECH to be a part of my projects — not to be the emphasis at all — so I thought of what I did….I host Projects — ProjectsByJen. So the name fit — and I ran with it. And it works.
7. THANK YOU, EduSpot
Until the Holiday Card Project, my most successful and highest number of participants was the SKITTLES project. This was way before Google Docs, so as data came in — I had to copy/paste each result into an Excel Spreadsheet. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I truly did this!! But, 2 years into the project — a company called EDUSPOT asked if they could collect my data and display it for me. And that is when automation of data collection for a project was an AHA moment and I went from having maybe 150 – 200 people in a project to over 700 without a worry. They offered this collection option to me freely — and I will forever be grateful.
6. 2006, A Banner Year
In 2006, my projects suddenly started being noticed by a lot of people — from a lot of different areas. I was invited to speak at conferences, on podcasts, write up papers about my projects, was interviewed by several newspapers and won 6 awards. My most treasured award to this date is still the Global School Net Online Teacher Award. (http://www.globalschoolnet.org/award/) Though I usually dismiss awards that are based on popularity — this one truly was based on merit, there was criteria that had to be met, references that had to be requested, and several judges that spent many long hours sifting through proven concepts. Though I had to laugh when I won since the award provided airfare to the NECC conference and that year it was in San Diego (a 40 minute drive for me). The confidence this award provided to me that “this was a good thing I was doing” and the recognition from my peers that the projects were making small differences in classrooms — will forever be a “wow” moment in my life.
5. Sandy Hook
My heart is still sad for the events that happened at Sandy Hook — and I have written a blog post more here: http://projectsbyjen.com/blog/i-had-to-do-something/ —
But what happened within the community of Projects By Jen was huge — and will always remind me that my participants in projects are much more than that — many have become dear dear friends — and we are a community — even perhaps a family.
I reached out to my network – and for the next year, we sent cards — each month — to the teachers who had been at Sandy Hook – that returned to the classroom to continue to teach. I have NO idea how many cards were sent — who received them — when, where, if — I have no idea. But I do know that I have received 5 letters, 2 emails, and 1 phone call — thanking me for what our group had done. That “we did not forget” – that we continued to “support”…..and that as a group – we united to come together and uplift others in their time of sorry.
4. The Connections
A ProjectByJen is much more than just stacking a cookie or coloring a Christmas card or sorting cereal…..they have (and they always will) encourage teachers to connect with each other. Each and every project encourages teachers to reach out and connect with each other. I do not push this down their throats — but continue to give opportunity for people to share their classrooms with other classrooms. And it has been great to hear of these connections — these friendships — that have started because of a Project By Jen connection.
3. Simultaneous Reading
Both of “Some Project” (based on Charlotte’s Web) and our Happy Birthday, Mr Lincoln project were involved within bigger projects. Both projects had a simultaneous reading opportunity. Walden Books hosted the Charlotte’s Web read aloud to break the Guiness Book of World Records for “most people reading aloud simultaneously” and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library hosted a nation-wide simultaneous reading of the Gettysburg Address — I was able to include both these extenders into my projects. An example to me, that my projects could not just be contained to my ideas but also include the ideas of others.
2. Good Deed Doers
The DC Ducks might be my favorite project — but the project I am most proud of is “THE GOOD DEED DOERS” —
forged from ideas from “the wizard of oz” — this project encourages students to look for ways to help others — within their classroom, their home, their school, their city, their state, their nation. The project began just because my favorite graphic site (thistlegirldesigns) offered a Wizard of Oz themed graphic collection — but this project rippled from a simple idea to an opportunity for students to serve others – unselfishly, willingly, and with great kindness. It is a quiet little project — not a lot of fanfare, never received any recognition — but to be honest — isn’t that what true kindness is — helping others without any expectation of anything in return.
1. The People
— both the grownups and the kids! — but especially the kids!
I will probably never meet most of the teachers who have participated in projectsbyjen. Some are dear dear friends — who’s names appear in registration and I am encouraged by their continued support. Some are dear dear friends — I meet at conference, edcamps, etc — who are kind to tell me thank you for hosting these projects. Some are dear dear friends — who share out on twitter what their classroom is doing because of a project by jen. Some are dear dear friends — who share at conferences and edcamps about ProjectsByJen with no solicitation at all from me.
And I doubt that I will meet most of the students who have participated in projects by jen — but I do have 1 last story to tell.
During this past September — O.R.E.O. 2014 — I received a letter. The letter basically said:
“Dear Miss Wagner, In 2003, I was a 6th grade student and my teacher hosted the oreo project in my classroom. I have never forgotten that project. Currently now, I am a pre-service student in a 2nd grade classroom at (name withheld by request). My lead teacher asked me to put together a lesson idea that combined art, history, math, science, and literature. So I hosted the oreo project for the 2nd graders. I just wanted to tell you “THANK YOU” and I look forward to being a registered participant when I become a REAL teacher this coming September. Thank you. (name withheld by request)
So — my projects are now generational.
I don’t know if I can keep this up for 15 more years — sometimes 15 more days (we are in the midst of the Holiday Card Project right now smiles) — but it has been good. It has certainly been a journey of highs and lows — of lots and lots of learning — of many successes, and a few failures — of appreciation and humility as teachers come up to say thanks — of never hosting the same project exactly the same way twice, so I learn new ideas —
To those of you who have participated — I thank you.
Thank you for allowing my simple ideas to have an positive and creative impact in your classroom!
It means the world to me.