Updated: Mar 15
The POP project was the biggest project in 8th-grade for many years. The project was about the general social issues in India, with students researching their interests in these topics. Over the last 10+ years, the POP project started each January, but it is now the end of February, and 8th graders haven’t heard that they will do the POP project. Based on the reputation of the POP project (it was apparently quite difficult!), maybe we shouldn’t be so curious, but 8th graders want to know: What has happened to the POP?
What made POP a great project?
Ms. Cullen was a POP Coordinator for three years. She sat down with the DM to talk about the project. “What I loved about the POP project is that… It has to do with the country that we live in. It’s becoming aware of our surroundings. It’s taking something that students are interested in and allowing them to research it, do interviews, learn more about it, and put it together. And it’s based on something they’re interested in. They might be interested in child labour or water pollution.”
We also interviewed Mr. Currey - he was the team 8 lead teacher for three years and POP coordinator for four years before that. “There are a ton of benefits for kids doing the people project. I think from an academic perspective just the culminating project that it is and that all students have a shared experience. This is my eleventh year here and I was a team 8 member for nine of those years, and anytime I talk to former students that are in high school or even after they graduated, you know one of the things they always talk to me about is the POP project. Its this project that ties everything together. Its something that everyone looks back on sometimes in a fun way sometimes in a way that was like “aw man that was really hard” but it was something that tied everything together. Then I think with in that again with that you have tons of really important skills like, reaserching, writing and looking at data and interviewing people, time management, tuns of skills that we need as productive humans, A bunch of students came up to me saying wow it was so helpful for me when I got to high school.”
POP was not perfect
There are two sides to every coin, and the POP project was not without it’s challenges. Mrs. Cullen explained that the organization of the project could be difficult: “Sometimes we have these big topics, and if we go on field trips, we try to send students to something they're interested in, but there is such a wide variety of interest. That for some students it was hard to find field trips that are really fit (to their interests).”
And while many students might look back at the project and be thankful they did it, but they didn’t all love it while it was happening. “Sometimes students complained about it a lot. But there was such pride when they were done with it. I was sure there was definitely pride.”
So the POP project was generally a great project for students, it helped them experience many new things, but unfortunately, it changed form because of the pandemic. I wish we could see the POP project returning as soon as possible.
Did the POP project disappear? Why?
We interviewed Mrs.Cullen. “It has disappeared in the form it was before. Part of that has to do with the pandemic. From last year us moving from face-to-face education to online education, that uncertainties…So, part of the POP project are field trips, you know, we take students out indifferent areas of Delhi…And with COVID we really had restrictions on things we can do with students, and people that can come on to our campus. So, that kind of got us having to reassess and readept what it is that we are doing. So the hope is that there will still be an aspect of this population(POP) project as you move on the end of social study class, and you’’l going to connect social studies and you English class, you will going to talk about civil disobedience, you’ll going through this in math as well. So you will have a connection at the end of the year, it’s just not going to be a year researching a topic about India, and going through this process. Because the reality is that, you know, the part of this project was interviewing someone, and now we don’t have the abilities to make that opportunity happen because of COVID. SO it changed its form, and maybe in another year it will come back. Maybe it will come back to the way it was in pre-COVID. So we are hoping that we have some components of this project that still live on, but it can’t live in a way it lived before.”
There will be no POP this year
The COVID pandemic has had many consequences for students. Continuing with POP during this time has become too hard according to Ms Cullen. “It has disappeared in the form it was before. Part of that has to do with the pandemic. From last year we moved from face-to-face education to online education, with uncertainties…So, part of the POP project is field trips; we take students out to different areas of Delhi…And with COVID, we had restrictions on things we could do with students and people that could come on to our campus.” Although POP is not going to happen in the same way, 8th graders will still be developing some of the same skills they learned in the project.
Ms Cullen stressed that “the hope is that there will still be an aspect of this [PeOPle] project as you move on to the end of social studies class, and you will connect social studies and your English class. You are going to talk about civil disobedience. You’ll be doing this through math as well.”
So you will have a connection at the end of the year. It’s just not going to be a year researching a topic about India and going through this process. Because the reality is that, you know, the part of this project was interviewing someone, and now we don’t have the abilities to make that opportunity happen because of COVID. So it changed its form, and maybe it will come back in another year. Maybe it will come back to the way it was in pre-COVID. So we are hoping that we have some components of this project that still live on, but it can’t live in a way it lived before.”
Video from POP Creative Expression 2018. Video by Isaac Currey CC/BY