Students Work to Improve Local Parks

Students in Brooklyn create unique public service announcements to support their local parks.

Student project

As a Borough Instructional Technology Specialist, I facilitate our Title IID Voices In History grant which incorporates project-based learning and technology integration. I recently worked with 2nd grade teacher Marielle Crespo on a project focused on the role her students could play in improving their community; in this case, their local playground.

The class received a letter from a fictitious local politician asking the students to create public service announcements (PSAs) to inform community members to keep the playground clean and safe. This introductory event got the students motivated and eager to check out the playground in person.

A field trip was arranged and the second graders swarmed over the playground looking for areas that needed improvement. Back in the classroom, they compiled a list of what they discovered and got down to the business of working in teams to decide what they would use to create their PSA. The students’ voice and choice activity resulted in five groups choosing Frames to create animations.

The students signed team contracts, reviewed the project rubric, and began to sketch out their ideas. They learned how to create storyboards and scripts, which were then shared via document camera with their classmates for peer review and revision. Ms. Crespo and I consulted with individual teams as they learned how to use a green screen to capture “staged” images they combine with photos of the playground taken during the field trip.

It was gratifying to see how quickly students mastered the tools in Frames 5. I was amazed by their ability to import images, layer their green screen images on background photos, and then use the onion skin, rotation, resizing and chroma key tools with very little intervention or support. Once they were satisfied with the frames for their project, teams added titles, transitions and audio tracks to complete their PSAs.

A New York City Urban Park Ranger came to the classroom for the screening of the completed PSAs and served as an authentic expert evaluator. She was impressed by the work created by this group of second-graders and was excited to share it with her colleagues in the Parks Department.

In addition to their animations, the students learned how to create and read QR codes, and all their finished videos were embedded into the codes, which were displayed on their classroom bulletin board with an invitation for viewers to borrow an iPad from their classroom to view the work that was generated during this project.

Explore a lesson plan that encourages students to write persuasively.

The students felt empowered by the response their PSAs generated from the Park Ranger, and school officials realized that children can have a powerful voice in making changes in the community. This adventure in learning reinforced our belief that project-based learning and the use of technology has a powerful place in the primary grade classroom.

To see the video documenting their project-based learning journey, visit

Ellen Phillips

by Ellen Phillips

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