Scrum for School Inquiry Projects (Part 3)

This trimester I’m guiding my middle schooler in using Scrum techniques to complete an independent research project and presentation. We are now a few weeks into the trimester and the project is starting to take shape.

He started with the general topic of colonizing Mars then used user stories to define the lenses needed to get a more in-depth understanding of the topic.

User Stories:

A rocket scientist who needs to understand what the stresses and timeline will be for the trip so they can engineer the ship correctly.

A doctor who needs to understand how space travel and the environment on Mars may affect the physical and mental health of the settlers so they can ensure the settlers stay healthy.

An explorer who needs to know as much as possible about the planet  so they can locate the settlement for optimal success in terms of both the elements and the exploration potential.

The user stories are making the research needed less abstract and helping the inquiry come alive for my student. He has decided to make it even more realistic by presenting his findings as an infomercial, selling Mars colonization trips. At the end of each sprint his shippable product is a mini video advertisement, highlighting the research he completed during that sprint.

Overall, the Scrum methodology is helping him stay focused and moving forward. We are using both a wall of Post-it Notes in Kanban board layout at home to track workflow and a daily planner to help him remember work block tasks when he is at school.

The biggest takeaway from the last 2 weeks is that Daily Scrums are essential. The days I was too busy to ask the three essential questions were the days he made little to no progress. As his scrum master it is on me to ask: What did you get done yesterday? What are you planning on getting done today? What is blocking you?



Scrum for School Inquiry Projects (Part 2)

I’m gearing up to use Agile principles to help my middle schooler with his 3rd quarter inquiry project.

Agile principles were created for software development teams. His inquiry project differs from software projects in three distinct ways.

First, this project is an individual endeavor, not a team effort. However, the idea of using Scrum for individual projects is not new. Dustin Wax gave a good overview of how Scrum increases individual productivity in his Scrum for One post on Lifehack.

Second, instead of creating software, the project is defined as deeply researching a subject and then creating a polished presentation to showcase the research. Credit is based on both the quality of the research and the actual presentation. Again, this is not a unique application of the Agile principles. Scrum has been used effectively in both scientific research projects and team research efforts.

Finally, while there is growing interest in using Scrum in the schools it is usually viewed as a system-wide solution or used to help students manage their learning through group projects not as individuals. To learn more, check out the pioneering use of it in a school in the Netherlands.

Despite the differences between an individual research project by a middle schooler and a team software development project, Scrum techniques and rituals should help improve his end product. User stories, daily scrums, burndown charts, and sprint planning all can create better time management, less stress, and a more focused effort.