Week 2: Pactful Activities Reflection and Clean Water Prototype

I have had my students participate in PBL for years, but after looking through the Pactul activities in each of the three phases, I realized that there are so many powerful activities that I have not even thought about or touched upon with my students.
In the Understand phase, I absolutely love the Uncover Assumptions activity, the Interview activity, and the Empathy Map. To be honest, I really think all of these activities have the power to transform students’ ideas and thinking and the class culture as a whole. I think having students begin by looking at their own beliefs is a fantastic starting place because it addresses the idea of personal bias right from the beginning. This is something that everyone struggles with, and I think talking about it could lead to wonderful discussions.
In the Ideate phase, I think my students would respond well to the Worst Possible Idea activity. In the past when I have asked my students to brainstorm ideas they put so much pressure on themselves right from the beginning to think of perfect solutions, so I think it is a great idea to have them start at the other end of the spectrum. I also think that this could connect to growth mindset because the students can think about what can they learn from their worst ideas.
In the Prototype phase, I think the Build It: Prototyping for Empathy activity is such a great idea because it again connects back to empathy and the idea of social good. It forces students to think about others and not just how cool their idea is or their classmates’ opinions.
My design for creating access to clean water is solar-powered and eco-friendly. Essentially, this requires three pieces; two cylinders and a piece of vinyl. The cylinders can be made from any type of material that can hold water. The size of the containers does not matter and depends upon the resources available. Dirty water or collected rainwater is placed inside the outer container. The inside container is empty, and the vinyl is placed on top of both of the containers using stones or whatever is available to create a cone-like shape. The heat of the sun will cause the water to evaporate, and only pure water will evaporate. Dirt or sand will stay in the outer container because they cannot melt or evaporate. When the water vapor reaches the vinyl, the water droplets created from the vapor will roll into the center and fall into the empty inner container, providing access to clean water.


Hi Alice,
I appreciate your point of view, especially in light of your experience with project based learning. I agree that I love the discussion and reflection pieces of the activities. I also like your comments about the Worst Possible Idea–that it takes off the pressure students may feel, and that it connects with a growth mindset. It seems like that would be a fun activity, too. I can hear the students laughing already.
~MaryBeth Molina

Alice, I really appreciate your insight regarding having the students dive into a deeper understanding of the class culture as a whole while working through the Empathy Map. Too often, projects take on a hypothetical quality that invites students to pretend, at least until the project is completed.
But, they don’t often connect with those projects in a way that makes them look critically at why their ideas might be similar or different than others’. Truly investigating those biases has power to change the project and solution to be sure, but its power to transform the classroom culture is remarkable.

I agree with you about all the wonderful learning around assumptions, empathy, personal bias, compassion, and growth mindset. One of the things I love about this Teen Innovation Challenge (and PBL in general) is the ability to teach/facilitate learning about the important life skills that I hope our students will develop as human beings.

Very innovative idea for your prototype, Alice! I love the use of evaporation as a means of filtration. Super creative!