Student projects ‘Make a Difference’

To help students see that they could “have a positive impact on their community,” Wilton High School teacher Marie Aspinwall decided a few years ago to start the Make a Difference Project in her AP Government & Politics classes.

“I wanted students to not only think and talk about issues, but to engage in the political process,” she said.

“Students and I brainstormed the idea the first year, and with students’ input I’ve been trying to make it better and more meaningful every year.”

The annual project is designed to engage students in projects that make a difference in their school community and society.

“I work with students on a project proposal, giving them ideas of past projects and projects being done in the greater community,” said Aspinwall.

She said each proposal must include:

  • What the student plans to do;

  • How the student plans to accomplish it;

  • Who the student plans to do it with — either individually or with a classmate;

  • What the end project will be;

  • How the project ties into government and/or politics;

  • How the project makes a difference;

  • How the project helps advance an academic skill, such as reading, research, writing, public speaking, or critical thinking;

  • How the project is worthy of a 100-point grade.

“Next, the student needs to implement the project based on his or her proposal,” said Aspinwall.

The projects are done at the end of the school year and graded based on a rubric of Wilton High School’s 21st Century learning expectations.

The goal of the project, Aspinwall said, is for students to utilize the 21st Century learning skills of inquiry, interpretation, communication and engagement to make a “positive change on an authentic issue of interest to them.”

Aspinwall said students seem to love the fact that the project focuses on “real world issues.”

“Last year, I had 26 students from two AP Government & Politics classes work on projects,” she said.

“I am extremely proud of what my students have been able to accomplish.”

For their project last year, a trio students raised $500 for Trackside Teen Center by selling bracelets and starting a GoFundMe page.

Another student created a board game to help children understand gerrymandering, and sent an email to Wilton-based toy manufacturer Melissa & Doug about producing the game.