One of the most interesting and revealing questions on our survey of middle and high school students involved their answer to the question: what was the most interesting work/task/project you had last year in school?

The results were fascinating and quite helpful for teachers, particularly if you ask yourself as you read: what do all these things have in common? In terms of patterns in the content of the answers, to me the most amazing result was that dozens of students identified fetal pig, shark, or rat dissection as their most interesting task of the past year. Another huge favorite was the chem. lab that involved making ice cream or Smores and analyzing why it worked.  many students said “when they had to teach others” which is actually what got me into teaching as a 15-year-old in Algebra class! More than a dozen people chose the Baby project where you have to handle a simulated baby for a week. Almost nothing from English or Math was highlighted; most examples came from Science, History, voc-tech, PE, and Health & Consumer Sciences. Sad to say, over 200 students said that there was nothing that they could cite. (See #23 below – depressing to me as stated so poignantly.)

Below is a representative sample (every 100 of the 7000+ answers):

  1. The silent Brunch i had with My American Sign Language class because we had to apply what we learned and make sure that we fully knew what we where talking about
  2. We did a Table setting that depicted a famous artist for my art class. It was so interesting because the final product was really cool, and i also found the process exciting!
  3. Making ice cream in chemistry because it was something that we all like and could relate to.
  4. The most interesting work would be actually applying what we learn,for example we did labs in chemistry and that helpedme under stand more.
  5. last semester in sociology we got to do a project where we had to do something devious in public like be a goth.
  6. Builiding a house. This was interesting because I had to make something new everyday and the project always had soemthing to work on and i never got bored.
  7. In the last 12 months the most interesting activity I did was make smores in chemistry.  This was interesting because it was something fun that I enjoyed but also related to what we were learning about in class.
  8. build a boat in math class for surface area and volume
  9. The baby project. We got to take home stimulations of babies, and take care of them to determine what a real child would be like at our age. i really learned that im never ever ever going to have a child until im fully ready.
  10. rank the top ten people in history from a certain time period in order of importance and do a bio on each of them
  11. My favorite class project was in English when we had to remake a part of our novel into our own video project.  It was awesome.
  12. Create a podcast in my introduction to journalism class.  It was so interesting because we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted and we still got to learn about an important part of journalism.
  13. We dissected sharks. It was great hands on experience and fun.
  14. The most interesting thing was in my Advanced Studio class. All the seniors are coming together and making a memory movie of the things we did in the drama department.
  15. The most interesting work that i have done was disecting a pig because it was real hands on and it shows a different perspective of things
  16. Today in history we got to talk with a WWII veteran about his experiences and I thought it was really cool to hear his personal stories.
  17. We are currently dissecting a fetal pig in Biology.  It is interesting because dissections are a very good chance to see how an organism works firsthand.
  18. This year, we are making a 3D to scale model of a town or amusement park in math.
  19. In French when we had to do a menu on a resturant that had to be in Frnch. It really helped me with a lot of the food i didnt know. Also with just how different other courtries are and you can really tell on by just what they eat.
  20. A mock trial in my Business and Personal Law course was the most interesting work I’ve had to do. Not only was it fun and something very different, but it encouraged students to wark hard and learn the material, whihc happened more then than during any other time in the semester.
  21. i cant recall anything considered, “most interesting”.
  22. In chemistry, we had to mix gasses to make a pipette shoot across the room. It was interesting because the if the ratio of gasses are different, the shooting will be different.
  23. nothing really. in drivers ed. we drove but thats it.
  24. In art we are making a mural for the school. It’s so interesting because it will be in the school even after we’re gone and everyone can see it.
  25. The most interesting thing i have done in class in the past 12 months is making things in wood shop
  26. We did a scale drawing of our rooms in math, and it really helped me learn the right equations
  27. Having to work together as a class to teach ourselves the lesson. The actual teacher sat and just observed without saying anything. We were to discuss what we have read and form a discussion amongst ourselves while the teacher just took notes in the corner.
  28. weight lifthing we max out, burn out, and speed drills
  29. We disected a pig. Very interesting. Learning different parts of the pigs body was exhilerating.
  30. Disecting a pig fetus! It was hands-on experience and really intyresting to see all the systems and organs.
  31. The english Facebook project for Romeo and Juliet. It was fun to imagine what they would say, do and like if they actually had that technology.
  32. make a bike in metals class.
  33. I found it interesting when we were asked to do socratic seminars in English because it was a more fun way to ask for class disscussion.
  34. nothing really sticks out
  35. Having circle discussions in english because we get feedback on everyones thought.
  36. to do a experiment seeing how germs spread which aloud us to go through the school and collect samples
  37. Made a rocket car for Metals
  38. When my World History teacher read aloud a letter from the school to all the teachers, students, and parents that were regarding how you could buy these tickets for good grades to buy points back, and it was to teach us about how priests did the same thing back then in our lesson.
  39. we did not do a project or anything in the last 12 months
  40. we made a facebook in english for a greek myth or ledgend.
  41. For our final gemetry project, we got to come up with a game fo the class to play. It was fun but also helped us learn because we had to work out the problems and think of them. My group ended up making a giant life size board game for the class to play.
  42. the class made only the top of the water freeze.
  43. i have yet to have 1 fun activity in highschool.
  44. calculate the speed of cars driving on Rte 83 with a speed gun and then calculating the speed with formulas
  45. MIni medschool because it is a very smart and helpful way for students to learn about the medical field
  46. The lemonade game in economics. We got to run a sim of a lemonade company.
  47. in metals, building chopper bikes
  48. testing the PH levels of water of the pond at our school.
  49. Can’t think of one
  50. making a BK Whopper container in math. it was very interesting and it helped me learn more about the subject.
  51. Making my family tree in English for the book Color of Water. it helped me to understand mm identity and who I am as well as my family.
  52. The most interesting project I did so far was in biology. This was absolutely the only assignment the whole year that I did not mind. We had to research a genetic disease/disorder, and we got to pick whichever one we wanted on our assigned chromosome. We were allowed some freedom when we got to choose the disease/disorder, so some of our interests were factored in.
  53. History “Power of One” assignment.  I got to pick a current event topic and research it.  It helped learn more about what is going on in the world.
  54. Probably taking partner quizzes in math because it gives us the oppurtunity to talk with our peers and we always usually get better scores.
  55. Creating illustrations for an independent novel in my English class. I enjoyed this project because first off I was allowed to pick the book I read, and secondly I was allowed to choose my project so I was able to encorperate my talents as well as benefit from the learning.
  56. I liked doing the bacteria lab in science. Even though it was disgusting, it was still a lot of fun and we actually got to see what kind of germs are on everyday things at our school.
  57. Teaching the class
  58. The Baby Think It Over project in Parenting and Family Relations because it gave me a realistic idea of what having a baby as a teen is like.
  59. In history class we were involved in an activity that made us feel like we were actually in a trench in war. It was a really fun and educational activity that gave me a new perspective on what it was like.
  60. Disecting a pig; it’s really interesting to see all the organs that help a mammal live, and where they are located
  61. the most interesting work i did in the past 12 months was disecting a rat
  62. in biology we watched pill bugs and we were trying to find out if they like to live in wet places or dry places and dark or light places it was cool because we got to see how they react to different things. we got to see them choose their home
  63. The most interesting work I’ve done is the english activity with essays, etc. They broaden my writing skills and I enjoy writing a lot.
  64. Make a bird house.
  65. The most interesting thing I had to do is build a small boat to hold pennies. I liked this because it was fun and it was a competition.
  66. I had to create a soundtrack for a child’s book with a partner for Music Appreciation. I was the one who picked the songs and my partner read the book to class. I had to change the song to match the theme of each page.
  67. Currently we are doing a Mini Medical School in Biology in which we are learning about the human body and different diseases that can affect it. It’s interesting because we’re learning all of this stuff and later are going to get a “patient” that we have figure out what is wrong with them.
  68. we play alot of jepordy in my classes which is alot of fun
  69. The most interesting thing I had to do was research a family member who went through some kind of important event in our history. This assignment was due in World History. It helped me learn more writing skills and I learned more about my family’s past.
  70. We had to do a skin cancer advertisment for Health and it was the most interesting work i’ve done because i learned so many things about skin cancer and how to prevent it from happening.
  71. In Government we had to make a candidate and take on the role of running for president. I got to learn all the stress and each step it takes to become a president.
  72. My Psych class did a lab with mice to reinforce concepts in the learning unit. We were able to train the mice to complete mazes and do other tasks. Apart from the lab being really interesting and fun, it helped clear up a lot of the concepts from the unit!
  73. In English last year, We came in and the teacher given us a situation that we had crashed off a plane and needed to make camp and survive with anything in the class as an island and that he would then be sitting and taking notes on our actions. And that he wouldnt intervene. So a WHOLE class period he recorded us arguing, building camp, “finding food”, electing a leader or leaders, splitting up, and people pretending to be dead and gave up on the activity. All in preperation for Lord of the Flies.

The generalizations are straightforward: the most interesting work is meaningful, hands-on, thought-provoking, helps make the abstract concrete, wider-world, etc. – no surprise but important for EVERY teacher to see it in print and to reflect on. Consider: how often each semester do you provide students with experiences such as these – that meet the criteria just mentioned? As I have said many times, schooling is needlessly boring for too much of the time. Imagine if every unit involved an activity or performance assessment of the kind mentioned here how much better our students would engage and perform!

In the next post I will provide student answers to the prompt: I can’t learn when… as well as graphs about which ‘best practices’ help them learn best. Again, if you want to give the survey free of charge, contact me.


To go to The Student Voice Part 4, click here.