A Project Rebuked

by: Brady Rivkin

In schools in 2017, one would expect teachers to give projects that are clear, straightforward, and comprehensible to students so that the students have some challenge, but still can succeed if they put in the work. However, the recent science project on natural disasters did not follow this criteria. Many students, myself included, worked for over two weeks, putting in their best efforts to create concise but information packed presentations. We found plenty of data from reliable sources, each of us with well over ten, and made inferences when necessary. Despite this, we were critiqued on data interpretation even when the data was completely understandable as it was. A vivid example showed up in my project because it  included a chart explaining the wind scale, and I explained how as the wind speed increases, the hurricane category changes and the damage increases. Later, on the rubric, “What are the points of the chart” was written without explaining which chart or what it was categorized under. Shockingly, after I presented my project to Mr. Duffy and he explained what I could fix, which I did, I discovered that the methods of grading were completely vague and not focused on what we had been told to modify. Having worked independently, we were expecting to be graded differently based on our style of presentation, but we were all subject to the same square peg breaking the pegboard of circles that were our projects when we had been given the tools to create the circle peg and gave it to Mr. Duffy so that the grading would be as we expected. Two days after the first presentations, those who had presented were given their rubrics back with no explanation of why they were graded how they were. All of us want to have professional presentations, but we are not being taught how to do so. It is the teacher’s duty to establish a positive learning environment that allows students to contribute, but the current environment bars students from effectively contributing. Before we move on to anything else in the science curriculum, we must address this and create a win-win situation for all involved. If anyone involved steps back from addressing the students’ concerns, a coalition will form to address the concerns. We are coming to create change, and we will ensure that it happens.

A small but noteworthy note: I wrote this with the intent of a protest during my science class when I was to re-do my project because I would rather argue for reform that is possible than try to read Mr. Duffy’s mind, which for me, is impossible.