Project Based Learning to the Extreme: Part 2

In Project Based Learning Part 1, I talked about how our school structure and community’s support has allowed out school to create a year-long Project Based Learning experience for our students to design, find funding for, and help build a piece of public of art for our building! For a little more background on how this all got started, check out Part 1.

Here are the phases that we have broken this year long project into.  Throughout this process many teachers have been and will be involved.  I want to give them credit for all the wonderful things they have done and will do to help make this project possible.  Here are the teachers involved and what they teach: Jerrod Staack (Math), Kevin Rohne (Special Education), Kristie Kuhse (Family Consumer Science), Shane Erlandson (Gateway to Technology) and Bryan Benham (High School Industrial Technology) .

Phase 1: Design Phase

Time span: Trimester 1

Rotation: Chelsie Meyer (Art)

Students this trimester had art.  During first trimester students designed and re-designed their public art projects at the same time the math teacher was teaching them how to build and figure geometric shapes and forms.  This helped students in both art and math to create a better understanding of how to design a 3D model out of paper, cardboard, etc. to help represent what the students’ Geometric Sculpture projects would look like.  Students built rough draft and final models that represented what they wanted the sculpture to look like in real life.  Students had to think of the meaning behind their art and how it represented their experience during these wonderful four years they call middle school. Students also used the app Sketchbook Express to take a photo of the location and a photo of their model and super impose the two of them together to give the viewer an understanding of where their sculpture would go on the school grounds and how big it would be.  Then the math teacher and I watched and listen to their presentations and made suggestions for improvement.  The students made changes and came to school ready to present to community members.

Here is a photo from the Final Showcase with students sharing their designs with community members.

The morning of their final presentations we sent the students an email stating who would be presenting to the community members, as they had made the top finalist selection.   Eight groups got the honor of sharing with the community members their Geometric Sculpture designs.  Community members on our judges panel represented a range from city council members, an employee of Terex, the high school industrial technology teacher, the founder of the Waverly Art Walk, our principal, and the curriculum director.  The community members were given feedback forms to help guide them as they listened to the presentations.  The feedback that was given to the students truly let them know how valued and important their ideas were.  After the students presented, the community members and teachers discussed the probability of building each design.  We narrowed it from 8 down to five as we headed into Phase 2: Funding.

Here is a photo of our discussion and voting process.  It was a hard decision.


Phase 2: Funding

Time span: Trimester 2

Rotation: Kristie Kuhse (Family Consumer Science)

Students this trimester now have Family Consumer Science with Mrs. Kuhse in place of where they had their art class last trimester.  Students will work with the FCS teacher and the math teacher to figure out how much material will be needed to actually build the 5 models that were choosen from Phase 1.  Students will form new groups as they complete some possible small re-deigns based on cost.  Each group will choose one model to figure the cost and put together a new presentation that breaks down the cost of the sculpture based on materials that the group will choose.  We will then again bring in community members to help us further narrow down the decision to decide on one final model to be built in Phase 3: Building.  Students might also look into grant or donation as options to help fund this project during this Phase.


Phase 3: Building

Time span: Trimester 3

Rotation: Shane Erlandson (Gateway to Technology)

Students this trimester will rotate and have Gateway to Technology with Mr. Erlandson. Students will work with Auto Desk Inventor, a computer program, to design the final model.  This computer program is used at our high school as well.  We will team up with the high school industrial technology class during this phase to help us build the actual sculpture based off of students’ designs.  The other added benefit of teaming up with the high school is the amazing equipment that they have received through various grants, including a 3D printer, which would allow us to print the student’s original model from Trimester 1 to create a scale model using this innovative technology.  They also have a various welding tools, including a CNC table, which allows students to design images on a computer program to be plasma cut out of a 3ft x 3ft sheet of metal.  This phase will allow students to see their designs come to completion!

I feel very blessed to be given this time every other Wednesday to help plan and implement this unforgettable art project.  I know it is one that we hope to see continue in the coming years as sculptures that are designed by middle school students and built by high school students start popping up throughout our community.  Students will be able to truly leave their legacy for others to enjoy through art.

What questions do you have about the process?

Tell us about your large group projects!

Editor’s Note: Today will be Chelsie’s last article writing and teaching for AOE- She has some exciting things ahead in her life, and she has included this special message to say goodbye – From everyone at the AOE team, thank you for sharing your classroom and expertise with us – we wish you well, Chelsie! 

I hope your holiday dinners have included all of your favorite family foods, as this is one of the joys of getting together. This year I brought buns for the holidays!  It was a great way to announce that my husband and I are expecting Baby #3 in May!

We are very thrilled and will have a very busy summer, as our oldest daughter will turn 3 years old this January.  We are so blessed. We have truly enjoyed having our kids so close together, but of course with this something has to give as our house will soon be even busier.

So I’m sad to say that I will no longer be writing for AOE.   If you remember those pregnancy days, exhaustion starts to set in pretty early.  It has been a pleasure and joy getting to know you all through my articles on the Art of Education.  I look forward to continuing to follow the Art of Education community.  It truly is the best professional development for art teachers and a great place for us to connect with each other.

I would like to give a special thanks to Jessica for all of her wonderful editing, ideas, and encouragement.  I would not be the art teacher I am today without her belief in me! It has been an amazing opportunity!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday vacation and I hope you are feeling renewed and refresh as you head back to school.   Wishing you the best in 2013 as my family is looking forward to welcoming our bundle of joy!





Chelsie Meyer

This article was written by former AOE writer and technology guru Chelsie Meyer.


  • erica

    Congrats Chelsie!!! What a beautiful full life you have to look forward to! I hope we get updates or guests posts by you on aoe -artprojectgirl

    • Thanks so much Erica! We are very excited about welcoming Baby #3 but will be busy!

  • Charmaine

    So happy for you, Chelsie! Best wishes for you and your growing family. I’ll miss your articles for AOE, but certainly understand why you need to cut back a bit.

  • Good luck, Chelsie! Exciting news :)