Mentoring – A Way of Life at All Levels

By: Dr. Bobbie Jo Monahan, Cohort #4 Mentor; Dr. Mike Sargent, Cohort #3 Mentor; Lori Magnuson, Kokomo School District

Mentoring happens at all levels of learning and development. Mentoring provides growth and development opportunities for BOTH the mentor and mentee. Lori Magnuson is the Coordinator/Director for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP) in the Kokomo School District.  She is currently completing an administrative internship program at Indiana State University (ISU).  As part of the program, Lori is being mentored by Dr. Mike Sargent, Assistant Superintendent in the district, and by Dr. Bobbie Jo Monahan, Principal Coordinator/Director of Administration & Supervision at ISU.  During Dr. Monahan’s last internship visit, Lori shared how she is “paying it forward” by mentoring teachers and young students engaged in the Middle Years Programme Personal project.

The Personal Project is a way for 10th grade students in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP) to demonstrate skills they have learned over the past four years in their courses and in approaches to learning.  Each individual student chooses his/her project and is guided by a supervisor/mentor.  The project is something that a student is interested in creating, organizing, learning more about; it could be an issue or learning a new skill.  The project happens over an extended period of time. Progress is recorded in a process journal and a report is written at the end of the project.

Supervisors mentor their students over the course of six months.  They are required to meet a minimum of three times.  Many meet multiple times a month to share progress and frustrations.  The emphasis is on the process and not as much on the final project.  Students often change their mind about their project or change the focus.

At the end of the six months, a showcase is held, allowing students to showoff and explain their final products.  This year, the showcase was held on Thursday, February 23, and 90 students participated.

Some students focused on health issues such as a project titled “All Bodies Are Good Bodies.”  In this project, the student struggled with self-image and how others perceive body image.  She completed a book that had many inspirational quotes, body image campaigns, and other healthy body promotions from actresses and others.  Another student studied how healthy eating improves focus and concentration. “Fittin’ This Diet in My Life” centered on how a healthy diet can work with his lifestyle.

Many students were engaged in sports projects.  One student started out wanting to hold a soccer clinic for grade school students.  He had researched drills, strategies and methods to improve play and put together a clinic; however, he was unable to find a venue.  Working with his mentor, he was successful in partnering with a youth soccer coach.  He was able to use his research to help improve the athletes’ skills.

Another student chose to start a charity in Kokomo to collect used sports equipment and give it to younger students.  Others focused in on being a student athlete, sharing the road with bicyclists, improving skills, strength and conditioning, and creating soccer trading cards.

One student is involved in the Kokomo Area Career Welding class.  He wanted to have a presentation to show others the importance of welding, the skills needed, and the job outlook for welders.  One piece of his presentation focused on opportunities for training after high school.  He had videos and flyers along with equipment that a welder would use.

These students start learning Spanish in elementary in the International Baccalaureate program.  One of the students has traveled to several Spanish-speaking countries.  She chose to learn dances from those countries.  She learned about the history of the dance.  She performed the dances during the Personal Project Showcase.

Another student developed comic books to help teach Spanish to elementary students.  She had a series of four comics and worksheets that centered on different topics.  She partnered with an elementary Spanish teacher so that students could use her comics and worksheets and then provide feedback.  Her designs and teaching methods were well received.  As a result of this project, she is interested in a teaching career.

One young man studied how comics were made.  He took his original drawings and started his own comic book series.

Many students were interested in learning new instruments.  There were students that learned to play the guitar, piccolo, violin, ukulele, and piano.  Other students used their love of music to create an album of songs to invoke certain emotions, play music of a video game, and learn the history behind their instruments.

Many students involved art in some way in their projects.  One student loves photography, travel, and nature.  He started out his project to perfect his shots.  He found that he enjoyed photography so much that he purchased a better camera and had several photographs published in the local paper.  He plans on participating in the yearbook and school paper next school year as a photographer.

Other students chose to improve their painting, sculpture and drawing skills.  One student looked at different types of pictures and studied different photographers’ methods in the pursuit of determining which style of photography best fit her.  Some learned how to sew and make their formal dresses.  Others made functional items such as an art bag, dog collars, and learned how to crochet.

The mentoring relationship with their supervisors is a key component in the success of the project along with the students’ reflections on their learning over the past four years.  Project Learning has been a huge success with students demonstrating increased critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

If you would like additional information about Project Learning, please contact Lori Magnuson at [email protected].