Running his school’s pollinator garden since 2019 gives 5th-grade science teacher Pete Barnes a unique environment to teach students not just about plants, especially those local to New Albany, Ohio, but to also give his students an opportunity to learn from each other and build on work their peers started the year prior, he writes for Edutopia.
Setting a direction and guidelines are key to such multiyear projects, but so too is flexibility and knowing the garden can change, even from the approach current students choose to take. But getting assistance is important, and that can come in the form of funding or expert advise — both of which can help ensure a multiyear project flourishes, especially when tasks grow overwhelming.
Educators can also consider inviting students to help across multiple grades, providing a sense of continuity in a project’s success. And while a garden project is not feasible for every school, educators can link the multiyear concept to other subjects — from having each year's students write new chapters to an ongoing book to adding to a school’s existing art mural.
Multiyear projects can expand students' opportunities for deeper learning, and the extended scope can also give educators room to explore the breadth of a subject — particularly if it stretches across multiple subject areas.
Many high school students may already be familiar with multi-year projects, as getting into college or pursuing professional opportunities while in high school that can lead to potential internships, apprenticeships or jobs takes more than a single term.
As one grade completes a longer project, be it working in a garden or managing a school-based bee hive, they also strengthen social-emotional learning, from time-management to organizational skills, helping learners successfully set up the next cohort to move forward.
Learning how to manage a project that will be handed off to someone else to shepherd, however, is a different skill set. But a multiyear project can seed many of the necessary soft skills students will eventually need when handling longer-length projects in the work place, such as teamwork or the ability to collaborate across different departments.