Help in coming up with ideas for Personal Projects or Community Projects

Tamarack, Idaho is home to one of the schools in the Place Network: Mountain Community School. Mountain Community School opened its doors to students for the first time in August 2022, and this is our first dispatch from their team, reported by students Rylee, Georgia, Porter, faculty advisor Dr. Jenny Schon.

At Mountain Community School this is our first year of being opened, serving grades K-8. There are lots of new things to get used to, one of which is doing Personal Projects and Community Projects. Both are done daily and both involve a lot of student choice. They both are also interdisciplinary.

Personal Projects are where you take something you want to learn and research about it. It’s a bit like electives but with no limits. You pick something and work either on your own or in a small group of other students that want to do the same thing. It could last a month or the whole year depending on the project. Some ideas students have come up with are: conducting a bake sale to raise money for their Community Project, creating an online game, learning a language, learning an instrument, baking, coding, and creating a reptile exhibit.

Coming up with your own project to work on is a daunting task the first time. Also coming up with a Community Project is difficult since everyone has different ideas and things that they are interested in. One class initially wanted to learn about holding snakes and was starting to look into finding an expert but then a better idea came their way. The students were told they can no longer play in a cattail/wetland area near the school due to the damage they were doing to it. Upset and frustrated, the class decided to look into what a wetland is and how humans impact them. A problem they were facing became their project. Another class had one student who knew a lot about 3D printers and everyone else wanted to learn more and use the printers he had. In this example, one student’s interest became the whole class’s project.

Before deciding on an idea, here are some tips to get you going:

  1. Set aside some time, don’t rush the process. You will need to plan things out and think through the steps. You might even have to start over!
  2. Have a planner of some kind to sort ideas and keep track of logistics.
  3. Talk with others. Share your ideas with each other; their contributions might be the missing piece to your idea!
  4. Think about what you already like to do and are interested in.
  5. Talk with your advisor so they can see if it’s feasible and reasonable.
    And, have fun and enjoy the process!


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