Ready, Set, Reinvent Your Curriculum: Transform Learning With National Competitions And Projects – Part 1

reinventPicture : Creative Common – Antonio Paramo

This is part 1 of a 2 part posting involving creating the awareness of how national programs and competitions can be used to transform existing curricula and bring disciplines together. Whether you participate in the actual competitions or not, all provide a wealth of activities and resources to promote 21st century learning. I have divided this posting into two parts so that you can discover some amazing sites without becoming overwhelmed. I will also be creating areas that go into depth about these sites  at my 21centuryedtech Wiki. Please feel free to visit. In the meantime Ready, Set, Reinvent!


I have long been an advocate of using established resources that can promote student engagement. As you scan this posting it is my intent to make you aware of at least one new resource that can help facilitate your efforts in the 21st century classroom. First, my quick philosophical statement and then the nuts and bolts. If you are not into philosophy then go ahead and skip to the next paragraph for some really good resources. Twenty-first Century Learning involves both an integration with technology and a transformation in instruction. The teaching must allow students to develop those important 21st Century Skills.  One avenue for accomplishing this is by facilitating students through projects that are rigorous, relevant, and demand positive  involvement in a team. This is not a new concept;  athletics have long promoted this idea. I know I learned many of my 21st century skills in the field of athletics. I suggest that teachers use competition and team projects to allow students to be challenged and work together  to promote such attributes. There is an immense number of projects available to teachers through efforts of national organizations and partners. Some are well known and already fill rosters of extra curricular activities including Lego League and Next activities. I propose integrating many of these programs into the curriculum already in place. As you investigate it will become evident that many of these national programs have already provided an alignment with standards. Even more importantly,  many of these activities allow for the integration of disciplines and all promote 21st century skills. Now for the nuts and bolts of this posting.  Get ready for  some great ideas that promote 21st century learning based on technology, project based learning, STEM initiatives, and NETS standards. Remember, you do not have to be in the competition to benefit from its resources. In fact, sometimes I have tried using different programs for a year or two before entering. Always keep in mind that learning is  the process!

Future City –  What an awesome competition/project. It resides  at and is presented by the National Engineering Week Organization located in Alexandria Virginia.  You can’t ask for better engagement! This program assists students in  social studies and science awareness  by engaging them with the simulation, SIMCITY 4000 Deluxe.  After building a computer city, they practice their creativity and math skills as they build a scaled portion of their SIMCITY using recycled materials.  Finally, they hone  their language arts skills by writing about a problem and presenting their final project to a team of peers and experts. View the promotional video and you will become aware of the excitement this program can bring to the curriculum. This year’s competition involves the exploration of green building and living  practices. I have provided a list of resources at my 21centuryed Wiki. You will find videos, worksheets, GIS ideas, and a listing of integrated cross curricular  standards I put together for my district that align with the State of Indiana standards.  Also explore the Future City Web Site for video tutorials, national standards, 2009-10 Manual, some great outside links, and the projects brochure. One site I am especially impressed with is  Discover Engineering, a great STEM site that includes awesome videos, activities, and ideas. Future City Competitions are on a regional basis with the National in Washington D.C. I have heard the National is great and hope to see it some day in person!

We The People – More science is coming later in the part 2 post, but social studies and language arts can get a big boost from the Center For Civic Education’s activity entitled  We The People.
The We The People program has involved nearly 30 million students since 1987. Studies by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Stanford University reveal that students who are engaged in this curriculum outperform comparison students on every topic studied. The We The People Web Site has a Twenty-first Century interface that provides a great deal of multimedia and a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach that allows for the differentiation of instruction. Collaborative groups of students engage in  research,  essay writing, and presentations that result in a public hearing. Before this hearing, however, there is a great amount of student collaboration and community interaction. The final assessment is authentic and the end result goes beyond a study of civics education. Standards emphasized come from social studies, language arts, technology, and 21st Century skills. The We The People Website has a number of podcasts that can be subscribed to which can be used to differentiate instruction. Browse through research that demonstrates the effectiveness of the program. Another great program from the Center For Civic Education is Project Citizen.  This is a curricular program for students that promotes competent and responsible participation in order to monitor and influence public policy in local and state government. Students  develop support for democratic values and principles, tolerance, and feelings of political efficacy. If you do not participate in these programs be sure to check them out for future possibilities, or just for the great resources. The Center For Civic Education itself is an award winning site that provides other great programs including 60 Second Civics with daily podcast, activities, and quizzes and the Constitution Day Website.

I am sure that by exploring you have found resources you can either use or share with others. If possible, find ways to make these types of projects a process within your present curriculum. Please join me at my 21st Centuryedtech Wiki and feel free to send me your ideas for existing programs that we can all use to engage students in the 21st century!  Please share this site with others and  I hope you check out the next posting (Part 2) which will include several more awesome sites that I guarantee will give you even more ideas, so that you can get ready, set, reinvent!

– Mike

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One response to “Ready, Set, Reinvent Your Curriculum: Transform Learning With National Competitions And Projects – Part 1

  1. Check out this site. It is packed full of lesson plans and activities for educators, parents, students and after school coordinators.

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