Making a Change: Valley Ranch Elementary fourth graders adopt families for project based learning of math
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Fourth grade teachers at Valley Ranch Elementary in Irving wore green shirts, green balloons decorated the library, and a gentleman named Mr. Money dressed in a suit made from money printed material. Students sat as quietly as excited students can wait to find out what their next Project Based Learning (PBL) assignment would be.
“Project Based Learning incorporates real life experiences,” Principal Cynthia Arterbery said. “We have our school bank, Valley Ranch Bank, and we have a partnership with Las Colinas Federal Credit Union. The teachers decided to create a PBL Unit for the students to not only continue to learn about money and how to budget for families, but they decided to also adopt families.
“Today they will find out that they’re going to get to adopt families, and with that, they will create a budget and decide how to provide and purchase items for the families,” Ms. Arterbery said. “They reached out to communities to get donations from companies and businesses, so that’s another way of teaching them to reach out. Students submitted letters to the Irving Chamber of Commerce asking for donors, so they also went through the process of how to request donations, what that looks like, and how you do that, and the Irving Chamber is going to donate.”
Fourth grade math teacher NadyaGulam quieted the students.
“We are getting ready to launch a PBL in math,” Ms. Gulam said. “Can you predict what it will be about?”
“Money!”the students said in unison.
“The name of our project is ‘Making a Change,’ Ms. Gulam said. “Keep that in mind and see if you can figure out why it’s called ‘Making a Change.’”
Ms. Gulamasked Tonia Clark, Vice President of Las Colinas Federal Credit Union, to tell the students about the project. Student already knew Ms. Clark from her assistance with the school’s Star Savers Bank that started in 2004.
“Your new project is about math,” Ms. Clark said. “Did you know that we have to use math at the credit union? We use it every day.” She described the various jobs at the credit union and the math strategies each uses.
Students told her about some of the strategies they have learned including lattice multiplication, long division, and break apart. Two out of three of those the bank vice president had not heard about.
“These are the skills you need to know for this project: place values, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, estimation, money, problem solving, and making generalizations,” Clark said. “If you don’t know how to do any of those things, you’re going to find out really quickly. For technology skills, you’ll need to know how to use spread sheets, keyboarding, inserting pictures, and how to use the SmartBoard.”
Ms. Clark then read the entry document which described the project.
“Since you are great mathematicians, your teachers thought you could use your skills to adopt families for your school,” Clark said.“Your teachers would like to select a group in each class that can spend wisely and purchase items for our Adopt Angels families. The groups will each get $300 to purchase items requested by the family.”
Groups will research stores online and in paper ads to find the best deals for the items requested. They will use Google Aps spreadsheets to create a budget list of all items including the cost of each individual family member and determining the total cost for the family.
Irving Chamber of Commerce, Gold Gym, Volunteers of America, Mortgage USA, and Las Colinas Federal Credit Union are sponsoring the project. Jennifer Erlenbusch from Irving Bible Church will provide the families needing assistance for the holidays.
Tues., Dec. 11, students will present multimedia products to their sponsors using SmartBoards. One group from each class will be picked to shop for the families. Students may research products online, but parent volunteers will take the groups to stores to make purchases.
Back in their classrooms, students discussed with their teachers what they already knew about the projects and posed questions about things they did not know. Lists were made.
“Why do you think the title of our project is ‘Making a Change’?” Ms. Gulam asked.
“We are helping people,” one boy said.
Another said, “Change is another word for money.”