Picking Pearl Projects
There's no "perfect" pearl and no "perfect" project. Each student is unique. Each class is unique. Each teacher is unique. Explore the following two projects. They provide good examples of engaging, technology-rich projects.

Pearls are rated by their quality. You can do the same thing with classroom projects. However, remember that different people have varied needs and interests. What might work in one classroom might be ineffective with another teacher and set of students.

When judging a pearl, there are seven categories that should be considered. If you're interested in "real pearls", check out the Black Pearl site.
Let's explore these categories within the context of engaging classroom projects. Explore each of the following areas to learn more about picking a pearl project that's best for you and your students.



Pick a pearl that's the right size for you.

  • One shot project
  • Large project
  • Ongoing project
One Shot Project
A "one shot project" can be completed in a relatively short period of time. They can take a day or a month depending on the task and product. These projects focus on a specific outcome and are limited in scope. For example, students might post oral histories or photograph an eclipse. Think about what students could share or teach someone.
When considering a project, ask yourself: Is there enough depth? Is it meaningful?
The sign language student project is just the right size for a group of students. It contains digital pictures and short animations. The content includes basics and practice.
Large Project
A "large project" may take place over a longer period of time and include a number of different outcomes. For example, students might build a virtual museum or develop a community project. You might coordinate a reading project or draw many schools together for an activity.
When considering a project, ask yourself: Do you have a realistic timeline? Is it worth the energy?
The Queen Street student project involved the class in learning more about their community. After drawing pictures, creating digital pictures, and gathering information, they created a web project about their community.
Ongoing Project
An "ongoing project" involves students on a regular basis over a long period of time. Although the activities may be short or long, the emphasis is on students becoming continuously involved in an evolving project. For example, students might explore a project where they look at "this day in history" each day or see a science experiment blossom over many weeks. They could watch an online database grow as each participant adds their information.
When considering a project, ask yourself: Can you maintain interest?
The TESAN project asks students around the world to learn more about the natural areas near where they live. Participants from around the world add their projects and students can see their website evolve.
Size - Choose It
When choosing the size of your project, ask yourself: what's the best project size for me? Remember to start small and be realistic. Focus on a core concept rather than an entire unit or subject area. Also consider joining with others for a larger impact.


Pick the pearl that fits your needs. Pearls can be round, drops, ringed, and buttons. Explore the different types of information that can be shared. What will work best with your students, your teaching style, and your content?
  • Text
  • Sound
  • Still & Motion Visuals
  • Real Objects
Word processing, writing software, HyperStudio, and web pages can all be ways that students can share their ideas through a text-based format. They can explore the writing process and express their ideas.
CyberStories is a ThinkQuest project that posts student writing projects. Students can also incorporate pictures into their projects.
The auditory channel is often overlooked in classroom activities. However poetry and oral history projects benefit from the use of audio recordings. You can hear the emotion in a poem or a story when it's spoken aloud. Also consider projects that involve musical instruments and nature sounds.

Ask students to create a HyperStudio stack and narrate it themselves.

The example on the right is a HyperStudio stack on Spanish language and animal sounds.

Still Images
A picture is worth a thousand words. The picture could be from a digital camera, scanner, clip art CD, or a graphics packages. Beginners might use KidPix and more advanced students PhotoShop, however any graphics package can be used for students to express their ideas visually.

Although students can find lots of clip art, it's sometimes fun to just use the paint tools. In the example on the right, paint tools are used to draw pictures of different habitats.

Some students use diagrams or concept maps to show ideas. For example, students developed a project on AIDS and used an image map for their main menu. Another group working on a different AIDS project scanned hand-drawn pictures. Photographs are also a great way to express ideas. The Alaskan Wildflower project uses lots of photographs.
Moving Images
Moving images are a good means to express ideas visually. They can show steps in a process or movement of an object. Moving objects can include movies, videos, QuickTime movies and VRs, and animation.

The HyperStudio project on the right incorporates a QuickTime movie.

Real Objects
Real-world objects are an important part of learning. Students can share their ideas through science experiments or field trips. Travel buddy projects involve sharing thingss such as books, stuffed animals, or science objects over long distances. Students can record their real objects by using audio recordings, digitized pictures or other graphics.

The project on the right takes students step-by-step through a science experiment.

Shape - Choose It
When choosing the shape of your project, ask yourself: what technology fits my project needs? Think "communicate", not hardware and software. Start small and add to the project. Rather than trying to use all the technologies, focus on just a couple for a particular project. Give students choices and options to fit their individual interests, needs, and skills.


Pick an authentic pearl, but remember there are no "flawless" projects. It's better to have a real pearl with flaws than a clearly plastic pearl.
  • Real-world
  • Simulated
  • Contrived
  • Fakey
Students created a ThinkQuest project on the topics of birds. This project involved students in drawing, writing, observing, recording, and sharing information about birds they've seen in their school yard or at home. This is a great example of bringing the "real-world" into the classroom.
Simulated, Contrived, Fakey...
Have you ever read the book "The Lorax"? It's a great way to teach students about the environment. There's a website where you can play a Lorax game. The game is fun and goes with the book, but wouldn't planting a "real seed" be more effective than playing a game about seeds?
Surface - Choose It
When choosing the surface of your project, ask yourself: how authentic is my project? Students should have a real audience for their project. They need to focus on meaningful objectives. The situation or activity should involve real people, places, and things. The resources and data should be collected and analyzed by the students. The results should be shared and have an impact. Does your project contain these elements?


Pick an attractive pearl and pick a motivating project. The activities should be exciting, stimulating, and fun! High impact activities involve students in exploring information and connecting the past, present, and future.

In the project on the right, students learned about a real ship that sank many years ago. They used the Internet to learn about why it sank and how today people are locating treasure from the ship.

Luster - Choose It
When choosing the luster of your project, ask yourself: how motivating is the project? Does it draw the attention of my students? Does it maintain interest? Are students accessing or generating interesting and useful information? Are they using exciting technology tools? Does the project produce interesting and useful results?


Pick a pearl that works alone and as a set. When considering a collaborative activity, think about the role of the individual and the group. Think about how you might reach outside your classroom to connect with other teachers, students, or experts.
Be realistic when planning collaborative projects. Carefully group students. Think about how students in different areas or countries might be involved. When joining a global project, consider the needs of students and teachers in both locations.

A teacher in Indiana teamed with a teacher in the Netherlands to produce a fun project that involved collaborative writing and drawing. Check out their monster project.

Orient - Choose It
When choosing the orient of your project, ask yourself: how will people work together? Remember that a collaborative project involves planning for both the individual and the group. Organize team building activities to promote group spirit, but also develop individual guidelines and checklists to be sure that each student is working and is part of the team.


Pick a pearl to match the spectrum of personalities in your class. Think about individual interests, learning styles, and high level thinking.
When developing activities, think about varied:
  • channels of communication
  • reading levels
  • speeds
  • products
  • sharing
When developing assessment, think about varied ways to address:
  • core concepts
  • thinking skills
Explore a Track and Field project developed by some middle school students. When thinking about the multiple intelligences of learners, this project would be particularly good for students who were strong in the visual area because of all the photographs. It would also be good for students who need lots of movement in a project.
Tone - Choose It
When choosing the tone of your project, ask yourself: how does this project meet individual needs? Have you considered alternative activities and assessments?
Pearl Categories
When developing a project, think about whether you're interested in a natural, cultured, or imitation pearl.
Natural Pearls are born in the "real world"
Cultured Pearls are carefully planned to look like the "real world"
Imitation Pearls are made of glass or wax.

Imitation Pearl Project
  • Use CD-ROM and Internet to find information about landforms.
  • Create a HyperStudio card for your landform.
  • Create a class "science field trip"
Cultured Pearl
  • Explore national parks online
  • Select a park with an interesting landform.
  • Learn more about the landform.
  • Use MapQuest to plan a trip.
  • Create and connect the student webpages.

Natural Pearl
  • Study the geology in your area.
  • Contact an expert.
  • Explore related issues.
  • Share your project online.
  • Compare landforms around the world.
  • Explore this project by some students in Hawaii.

Dive for Pearls

Real or Fake?
Your Mission:

Turn an imitation into a real pearl project!