26 07 2012
After teaching in public schools for 19+ years, I’m delighted to have joined the ESSDACK team, partnering with Kevin Honeycutt to bring you LifePracticePBL, a flavor of Project Based Learning that engages all learners, Kindergarten through High School.
Ginger MACE13

Developing the LifePractice Model
Project Based Learning has been my passion for the past 6 years, creating a PBL school and the Life Practice Model we used. I can help your school move down the path toward authentic and engaged learning in all aspects of school. By creating an atmosphere of learning across both the academic and the social continuum, the students, staff, and community can create a dynamic education system. I’m ready to share with you the steps that it took to develop a true community of collaborative learners; staff, students, and parents together.

What does Ginger do?

Ginger provides dynamic and hands-on learning for those interested in providing engaging professional learning opportunities for teachers, administrators, parents, and communities.

Ginger’s specialties:
  • Project Based Learning
  • Technology Integration
  • Creativity
  • Gifted & High Ability Learners
  • Anti-bullying and Digital Citizenship
It is my passion to help teachers inspire their students to do more and be more than they could ever imagine.

Hire me to come work with your
staff, students, and community.


Ginger Lewman


Growing Sunflowers

16 04 2014

I have a friend who is doing some amazing stuff. The things she knows and the things she does with and for students is truly awesome! And her awesome work is being recognized by her organization’s leaders. And that’s always a good thing. Ok. It’s usually a good thing. But what is happening to Cindy is such a familiar story. Let’s see if you recognize it.

My friend, Cindy, is growing amazing sunflowers in her world. She’s planting, watering, nurturing, tending, and sharing the seeds of her labor with as many people as she can who happen to pass by her field. An organization of farmers, to which Cindy belongs, has called her a leader. They have put her in charge of a group of people who are interested in growing sunflowers.

This group of sunflower enthusiasts grows. And it’s good. There are many in the farmers’ organization who see the sunflowers and think they’re pretty, but they also know that sunflowers aren’t real food. They’re busy growing real food. Let Cindy and her friends grow those pretty sunflowers. There’s a place for them on the farm. But sunflowers aren’t food. And that is the purpose of a farm, right? To produce food?

"Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0"

“Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0″



Eventually, time passes, along with leadership changes and in fact, eventually, sunflowers are recognized to be something from which everyone in the entire organization can benefit. Cindy and her sunflower group friends agree!

So the new leadership, in their efforts to help Cindy promote her group and their sunflowers, set up a way for Cindy to showcase her awesome fields of sunflowers. They ask her to share her knowledge and experience. Yay!

And they give Cindy a box and a gallon-sized jar. And a closet with an incandescent light. Cindy is asked to grow a small sample of sunflowers in this small terrarium that will be protected in the closet so no one messes with her amazing flowers! Just a sample. We don’t want to overwhelm anyone with entire FIELDS of sunflowers. Just give us a small bit so others can see what it’s like and follow your lead in growing AMAZING sunflowers. We love your work so much and we believe it’s vital to our organization. Please help us, Cindy!

So, perplexed, Cindy turns to her sunflower group for help in making this “terrarium in a closet.” After all, it’s not really the best way to grow sunflowers, let alone learn about growing them, but maybe this small, closeted terrarium would attract others to the field later. So Cindy and her friends begin to work diligently to get the terrarium sunflowers to grow. It’s not easy. It’s not the best, but they convince themselves they’re doing the right thing for a bigger mission later.

So what happens with the mission? Do you think the whole farmer membership comes to look at and learn from the terrarium in the closet? Just because the new farmer organization leadership has recognized that sunflowers are vital, has the entire membership been suddenly convinced? Of those who do come to visit, do you think they get an accurate idea of how to grow fields of beautiful sunflowers? Do they even know what they’re looking at? Is Cindy using her time and her group’s time wisely to construct the closet terrarium?

Sometimes we’re helped by leadership that doesn’t truly know how to help those who are doing amazing things. They like what they see, but they don’t understand it. And in their zeal to help, they make us do things that just simply don’t help at all.

If you’re a leader — and I contend that most of us in education who are working to move the profession forward, no matter our pay-grade, work in some leadership capacity — how would you want to be approached and informed that you’re killing the sunflowers and killing the bigger mission? And what’s keeping you, Cindy, from helping your leaders see the truth of growing sunflowers?

I want to be clear: while this is a true story and I have been in Cindy’s position, this is not a story about me or leadership at my current job. This is sincerely only a story about a friend that has universal truths.

Ditch the Tri-Fold Boards and Host a Rockin Virtual Science Fair

21 03 2014

Today’s post is another question, submitted by a teacher whose school I’ve had the pleasure to work with on a few occasions. I love that she’s reaching out with today’s question, in response to me challenging science teachers to re-think how we do science fair projects. 

Hi Ginger,
I am the junior high science teacher at our school. [...] I am wanting to do a big science fair with my 8th graders. Instead of them presenting their projects with the typical tri-fold posters I was hoping there was a cool app or website they could use to present their research from their project. Kind of like a digital/virtual lab report. Do you know of any app or website that could help me?

Science fair exhibit (butterflies), probably t...

Science fair exhibit (butterflies), probably the exhibit of a first or second grader, local science fair in New York State (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When I visited your school, some of what I had mentioned is that in addition to the tri-folds, I had my students make websites in order to go deeper with their presentations. With the boards, we had the typical “stuff” visitors could see, but we also included the website which held many more pictures, deeper explanations, videos of the student at work (which helps to dis-invite parents from doing all the work).

However, you could absolutely ditch the tri-folds altogether! Those boards just take up valuable time, space, and money that we don’t HAVE to spend when we introduce the virtual components. One side-note: if you are doing a big, one-room, parents-touring type of science fair, you might prefer to have a tri-fold for each kid AND a website, which is what we did because my kids were building to take their work to a regional and state-level science fair to compete with kids from schools that had little to no technology. My students still displayed their websites with their laptops, but they were required by rules to have the tri-fold. 

If you go to the website-only format, then you can have a fully virtual science fair…which I’d LOVE to do! I know we might be tempted to have a one-room, parent-nite presentation where one kid at a time gets up and presents his/her results *yawn* or we could do something else! We could highlight one kid’s project a day for a month! Yep! Have the science fair MONTH, not just evening!

To do a virtual science fair, we want to have the kids create an introductory video (less than 5 minutes–more like 2 minutes long–cut the boring stuff and get to the heart of the learning). In this video, they could briefly summarize their question, their methodology, their findings, their next-level questions, whatever you like. And then they would also include a link to their website where we, the audience, could go in deeper to see pics, videos of the kids in action, the collected data evidence, etc. This “presentation” could be housed on the school or district website, the classroom website, or anywhere, really!

Then, once each kid’s project is revealed, you might have a Padlet embedded on the school/class website to house those projects (include the kid’s name, if you like, but definitely a link to his/her site.) that have been presented already that month. This way, the community could go in and see all the kids’ works over time.

If the school has a video announcement system (for instance a TV or monitor of some type in every room for morning announcements) then the video could get shown then! How fun?! And it could be potentially embarrassing, so the kids would have to be sure to have done their best work!So what would we use for the website? I had my kids choose what platform they wanted to use. My younger students (grades 5-6) used wikis such as Wikispaces or Google Sites, while my older, more experienced students usually chose to use Wix or Weebly, all of which are free tools. In fact, there are many free tools students could use. I think I even had one kid use HTML to code up his own site, but I’m not sure that was for this project. If you’re having kids use iPads, maybe they could try Simpl or Webr, which are iPad apps that help people build websites, right from their iPads.

On their sites, it was expected that the students had included a page for each section of the scientific process, as well as an introduction landing page.If you were able to ditch the tri-fold boards completely, you’d have the potential for a 100% virtual science fair and it could potentially goes on for a month (or more) and every single kid, elem-high school, and their parents and grandparents could view the cool stuff your kids have been doing! I see that as a win in any school.

And the truth is, we teachers know exactly how many of those tri-fold boards are actually built by parents, don’t we?
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The Best Piece of Advice I Ever Got for New Ventures

20 03 2014

Anyone who has done something different from the crowd can tell you that doing something different is hard. Really hard. It’s no wonder salmon die after swimming upstream for so long (nevermind the science of their natural life cycle…jeeze just watch the .gif and go with the imagery here, ok?).

Salmon giphy

Oh yes, did I mention the bears along the hard-fought route?
There always seem to be bears.

Suffice it to say that when educators decide to try something different than what’s been done before, different from what the rest of their community expects, that’s not easy going, either.

And we have such high expectations for our innovation for two reasons:

  • we’ve recognized that how we’ve been doing it just won’t cut it any more and
  • we have seen positive evidence of another strategy getting others to where we want to go.

There’s just no other option, right?

So we find ourselves, like the salmon, swimming, swimming. Sometimes the leap takes us up and over the waterfall and sometimes we’re the ones falling back, trying to muster the energy and courage to take the leap again (avoiding the bears). And eventually, it can just seem to be too much.

O you mighty salmon-ish educators working hard. Just for a moment take a pause. Take just a brief moment and consider the lives of the perennials in the garden:

The first year they sleep;
The second year they creep;
The third year they leap!

I picked up this “herbaceous” piece of advice many years ago from a gardening TV show and have since realized that it fits just about any new endeavor I’ve ever had to work through. Sure, that first year when I tried something new, the students and parents were happy, but I was dissatisfied. I knew there was so much more; several things so much better that could have been done. So I kept working. And the hits could have been enough to discourage me. I could have (should have?) gone belly-up and become bear food. But I remembered the advice of the perennials. And the second year, it got better. The third year? It was astounding. At the end of that third year, I finally felt comfortable enough that I started a new cycle of innovation, adding on and beginning my first year of “sleep” again.

And it always seems to go that way.

This is the advice I gave all my new teachers and I still give to anyone who is trying out something new, whether it’s in education, fitness, or anywhere else. Give yourself permission to “sleep” the first year. You’re going to be working hard — really hard — but the innovation is just chilling. You’ll get better.

Just pause and take a moment before you try to leap that waterfall again, o mighty salmon, and please, have patience with yourself.

FAQ: 7 Links to Inform Our Communities About PBL

17 03 2014

Today’s post is another of the FAQ:
I received this question in my inbox today from a good Principal friend of mine. His school is pretty much 100% Project-Based Learning, but while his teachers and students are all bought in to the benefits of this model, not all of the surrounding community is. Nor, necessarily, are the teachers in other schools within his district even truly aware of what PBL is…and what it’s not. So this Principal and his staff are trying to provide quick and easy information for people to learn about PBL on their own. FAQ

“Dear Ginger, We would like to put a link on the school web page and elsewhere that would be beneficial in explaining PBL to parents of prospective students.  Do you have a recommendation on site(s) that would be good for that purpose?  Thanks.”

And in quick/easy format, this was my response:

From the Buck Institute:

From Edutopia:

A great video from the folks at BIE and CommonCraft:

A good beginner curriculum:

This ought to provide some good reading and learning for your community for awhile. Please do share this post with anyone you think might benefit from it. And do copy/paste the links if you’d like to include them on your website as well.
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