A student at Monmouth Regional High School in New Jersey shares her pointed thoughts on school projects here.
The Pointless Project Plague: Some school projects are a waste of time and money
It is Sunday night, and you have an assignment due. Luckily, it is not an essay. It is not a dreadful six-page history outline, nor is it sixty-five impossible algebra problems. You have the “harmless” poster: hours of printing, cutting, gluing, pasting, and maybe a little crying. Unless your family is particularly arts-and-craftsy and happens to have the proper supplies available, the immediate problem is obtaining the poster board. And often, not just any sized board is acceptable. Your teacher requires that your project be on an 8×10 rectangular surface, and you would not dare risk failure with a 10×12. Whether you like it or not, it is off to the craft store to spend your hard-earned money on your favorite thing: school. You rummage through the shelves for the things you need, and unless you put in that extra two cents (a.k.a. twenty to thirty dollars) to make it especially eye-pleasing, you will probably get a C, maybe a B if lucky. So you do not refrain from loading up your shopping basket with plenty of glitter and fancy stickers. Once you finally have all the supplies, you return home and wonder, “Wait, what’s this project about again?”
Pointless at-home school projects have plagued students’ lives for far too long. Some may see these assignments as easy A’s, but they are mostly just a waste of time and money in exchange for zero educational benefit.
Often students waste hours making their presentations “pretty” before spending a few minutes copying and pasting some information from the internet for the “educational” component. And the reality is that the students who show up to class with the nicest-looking projects usually get the best grades, because they exude the “ I spent six hours on this” message in the critical eyes of teachers. Senior Joe Lee said, “The kids who get the A-plus’s are the ones who go to A.C. Moore and buy the 3D stickers. I could have all the right information and still get a bad grade.”
If more teachers allowed students to choose from a list of several options, or even come up with their own idea, the students would probably be more motivated. For instance, technologically-advanced students would be great at making a PowerPoint or a website. Artistic students would love doing something creative such as a poem or a poster. And others might prefer an oral presentation, or a video project. Freshman Elaina Whelan prefers creative projects that are open to the students’ interpretations. “The same old projects get boring, and they don’t teach you anything,” she said. “Teachers should expand their ideas more when giving out the assignments.” Usually, big projects have significant value in grade books, so they can either be helpful or harmful to students’ grades. If teachers become more pro-choice with projects, it would make them both fun and worthwhile, rather than another case of last-minute procrastination.
How about having students write an academic paper?