As a father and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), I was concerned when my daughter came home from school, sharing that she had been memorizing the state capitals. I realized that rote memorization did little to improve her critical thinking skills. This realization became the catalyst for my journey in integrating project management into the middle and high school curriculum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have since embarked on this mission to not only teach students valuable project management skills but also to help them develop essential life skills.
My goal was to deliver hands-on training that incorporated not only project management knowledge but also 21st-century skills, including communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. These essential skills would not only aid students in their future academic and professional pursuits but also contribute to their personal growth and development.
To achieve this goal, I adapted the PMI Educational Foundation’s educational resources and created engaging activities designed to be easily implemented and for students to get the most learning value out of their project experiences. These activities included team-building exercises, goal-setting sessions, and opportunities for students to take on leadership roles.
Middle School Success:
At Thoreau Demonstration Academy, I began my middle school project management program by using team and hands-on exercises to teach students project management and leadership concepts. I put great emphasis on the practical and applied skills of project management, including team building and diversity, time management and scheduling, team member roles and responsibilities, as well as communication management and risk assessment.
The program was structured around a series of progressively complex projects, with each project designed to challenge the students and help them develop their problem-solving abilities. These projects ranged from simple tasks, such as organizing a bake sale or a school-wide recycling drive, to more complex endeavors, like planning a school dance or coordinating a community service event.
The program culminated with the students successfully organizing the school’s end-of-year 8th Grade Day, receiving kudos from the middle school principal, parents, and PMI professionals. The success of this program showcased the incredible potential of incorporating project management skills into the middle school curriculum.
High School Triumphs and Challenges:
At Tulsa Tech High School, I collaborated with teacher Theresa Pinkston and led the students through team building activities and training on the basics of project management. The students completed two projects, experiencing both the downsides of a poorly managed project and the positive results of a well-run project. Through these experiences, they internalized valuable life lessons and developed critical life, learning, and project management skills.
These high school students were given more autonomy in their projects, which allowed them to exercise their creativity and innovation, as well as develop their negotiation and conflict resolution skills. They tackled real-world problems, such as fundraising for a local charity, organizing a school-wide volunteer day, or redesigning their school’s website. By facing these challenges head-on, the students learned the importance of adaptability, perseverance, and resilience.
My plans include expanding the program and providing professional development opportunities for classroom teachers and PMPs to learn from each other and collaborate on teaching project management and leadership methods and concepts. I aim to create a community of educators and professionals who share a common goal: to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century.
I also hope to overcome obstacles in implementing the program on a larger scale, as it has been done in states like North Carolina and Washington. Challenges may include securing funding and support from school districts, as well as convincing administrators and policymakers of the value of incorporating project management skills into the curriculum.
A Lasting Impact: The project management and leadership programs in Tulsa demonstrated that students are eager to learn, understand, and apply project management skills