Episode # 52

Project Based Learning with Matt Skoczylas

March 14, 2024

About This Episode

On this episode, Kara speaks with Matt Skoczylas, an elementary computer teacher for Ellwood City School District, about how a directive on project based learning led to blending nature and technology with his students.


Matt Skoczylas

Matt Skoczylas has been an Elementary Technology Teacher at the Ellwood City Area School District for 25 years. Throughout those years, he has taught K-6 students various programs, on a number of platforms, including iMacs, PC’s and Chromebooks. He has also performed professional development for elementary and secondary staff, hosted an evening adult computer class and presented several times at the Pennsylvania PETE&C Conference.



Kara: Joining us today is Matt Scotchlis, who is an elementary computer teacher and Google certified trainer from Elwood city schools in Pennsylvania. So hi, Matt.

Matt Skoczylas: Hello everybody. It’s nice to be here.

Kara: Yeah, I’m really excited to talk to you and I’ll give our listeners just a little bit of background that Matt and I met briefly at the Google summit last May, and you were telling us about these.

Necklaces that your students had created and I was really intrigued and so that has led to our conversation today. Yeah. So before we talk about that [00:01:00] really cool project, I want to know how you decided to become a teacher.

Matt Skoczylas: All right. Well. This is my 25th year of being an elementary computer teacher here in Elwood City.

I started the program. I’ve worked with PCs. I’ve worked with Macs. Now we’re on Chromebooks, but this is my 25th year here. So even before that Even before even college I worked with my junior church program with the little kids and, and I didn’t think anything of it. I’m like, I’m working with them, you know teaching them these Bible stories and things like that.

And my sister’s like, well, Matt, you’re, you’re so good at with these kids. Why don’t you go and become a teacher? And at that point, you know, you’re young and you don’t know what you’re going to do. And I’m like, never really thought about it that way. So then I applied to, you know, different universities and I got in and I’m like, well, maybe I’m going to try this elementary you know, see what, see what, see what it’s like.

So I got in and my certification is just elementary education. But I did get a little background. So this [00:02:00] was in the nineties. I’ll date myself. I’m pretty old here. So in the nineties, you know, laptop computers weren’t, weren’t prevalent, you know. And I was just learning in college on, on laptop on these computers and things like that.

So we had to pick out like a minor or concentration and I’m like, well, these computer things are just coming out and, you know, they, they intrigued me a little bit and, so I’m like, well, I’m going to try it. So through my degree, through Clarion university of Pennsylvania I was able to get a concentration in, in, in computers which was great.

I graduated cutting edge, right? Right. And I didn’t, you know, it was fine. I didn’t, I didn’t know too much, but I was, I was intrigued with it. I loved it. Yeah. And then right out of college I started substituting. Kids were just so funny. Like you would walk into a class, you would be their substitute and they had never seen you again.

And, and, you know, I was young back then and they’re, they’re thinking I’m, I’m really cool. Who’s this cool guy coming in? You know, he’s young and, and trying to teach us things. And I just really, really enjoyed it. And I got to meet a lot of. [00:03:00] Of people. I think I subbed it, you know, six different districts here in the area.

And so I’m a graduate of Elwood city as well. So I think that helped me you know, get in. So I was at an aid for two years with a special, special needs boy who kind of, you know, I, I worked with him and he had a Dynavox to talk with. So I was kind of still in the computer business, you know, trying to figure out how to, how to work this Dynavox, this talking machine.

And so there was a position opened. There were six elementary positions open at the time, and one of them happened to be a computer position. It was, it was the first of its kind, you know I didn’t really know anything about it, and the teachers didn’t know anything about it. And so I’m like, well, you know, I have this background in computers.

Let’s let’s go for it. So I was able to interview and, and, you know, talk a little bit about what I did in college, what I’ve done at home with my personal computer and, lo and behold, I got the job, but I didn’t know what to do. Like how do you do in this position? So back then I taught third, fourth, fifth and sixth [00:04:00] grade computer class.

I would have a lab in each one of those buildings and we used IMAX. Now those were those big computers. You could see through them. They were clear. Some of them were purple and pink and my lab. Green. Yes. My lab looked beautiful. It was beautiful. And the kids were all, Oh, I want the green one or I want the pink one or I want the blue one.

So, you know, that was, it was new to me and it was new to them. And, and I think. I didn’t have many discipline problems because I think the kids wanted to learn about it, you know, and they wanted to know a little bit about, you know, it was Apple works back then. We did some drawing and hyper studio was big where you could actually make buttons and you can move to the next screen and you can draw on it.

And so we were making like small presentations and things like that way back. You know, in, in the early 2000s you know, 2001, 2002 in HyperStudio and it just kind of grew through that. After those iMacs were were finished, you know we got PCs [00:05:00] and I had to learn a whole new system. We worked, used Windows, we used, you know PowerPoint then and Word.

And so, you know, again, changing, changing degrees a little bit and, and. and making new plans and things like that. But then the biggest thing hit is whenever we got laptops and they were small, you could, we got to take them home and the kids got to, to use them. So again, using PCs and, and I was always intrigued with, with more and more, like what else can we do with these?

What, you know, and then finally we moved to a Chromebooks, I love my Chromebook. That’s what I’m using now. I’ve got two Chromebooks at home. My kids all have them. And I think you can do so much with a, with a Chromebook. And it just kind of escalated to that. And, and I love my job, you know, who would have thought 25 years ago, you know, this kid, you know, he wanted a a degree in elementary education, one of his own classroom.

And here I am, you know teaching computers for, for 25 years. So it’s been a, it’s been a great ride. And, and I. I enjoy it. I [00:06:00] enjoy it every day of it. Well, and

Kara: that’s what’s great about it, is one, that you still love it. And two, with technology, it’s always changing. So if it’s something you really enjoy, there’s always something new to try or a different lane to get in.

And so, yeah, that’s a good segue into, I feel like, this project. So I’m curious. It’s called The Mountains Are Calling, I Must Go,

Matt Skoczylas: right? Yes, yes. So that is a quote from John Muir and John Muir was the father of these national parks that we have. We have 6 63 major national parks in the United States and way back when he wanted to preserve them and we’re so glad that he, he preserved them and he went around and he, he went to Congress and he, he wanted to, to fight for these parks.

spaces so that they could be enjoyed by everyone. And we’ve got 63 beautiful places that we can visit here in the United States.

Kara: Yeah, which is [00:07:00] wonderful. I will say that maybe this is why this resonated with me is because I love the national parks and I feel like their popularity has only grown since COVID and everybody being locked down and realizing how nice it is to get enjoy what is in your backyard.

So what First of all, I guess, what kind of, I guess, let’s start with what is the project, maybe, and then what inspired it? Like, in, in the short version, then we can dig

Matt Skoczylas: in, I guess. This is a big like a project based learning. Project that I’ve come up with way back in 2019. My family, my wife and 2 daughters, we visited Acadia National Park.

And my wife and I had been there before and we stayed at a cabin. We were able to you know tell them a little bit about it. Tell them what they were going to see. And taking them there. They, they loved [00:08:00] it. They loved being out and into nature. They were able to get a junior ranger book from the the parks.

The park rangers there and they were able to do this book. They were able to turn, you know, stones over. They were able to investigate and, and they loved it. And I told my wife and I’m like, well, if, if they loved it this much. Can I bring that back to my class and what can I do to help them, you know, preserve nature and enjoy it this much and, you know, involve technology in it.

So when we got back, that was the summer of 2019. When we got back to school, we had an in service day, and our superintendent at the time kind of like challenged us to do a project based lesson. And we had in services that talked about how you would do a project based lesson. And I’m like, well, I think I’m going to do something on these national parks.

Like, what can I do to, you know, show the students where they are? You know, research them a little bit and, and then tell [00:09:00] others about it. So at the time I’m like, well, this fits fairly well into like a slideshow, like a Google slideshow. So I kind of set up a template on what we would follow and. You know, researching them, showing pictures, what you can do there.

And then I kind of turned it into like, well, if you would do this vacation, or if you would go to these places, how much would it cost? So I’m like, well, we can do a a Google spreadsheet and we can talk a little bit about, you know, budgeting and, and adding up and showing them the formulas in these, in the Google spreadsheet.

I’m like, well, then I, we can do slides. We can do Google slides. We can do, you know our spreadsheet. What else? Google? Can we do you know, to investigate this project? So I’m like, well, we can keep our notes. In, in Google keep keep and we can show them a little bit about that. So it just kept on going, like, what else can I do?

What else can I do? And then we ended up taking pictures of the national parks and then photo editing them [00:10:00] into the picture. So it actually looked like they were there. So we, we used remove dot BG and we were able to add that to the slide show. So they actually. were there into the National Park.

They were actually there in their photo. And then I’m like, well, if you would go to the National Park, you would probably want a souvenir. So I’m like, well, we’ve got this 3D printer in the lab. So let’s 3D print like an arrowhead because that’s the logo of the National Parks. And, and they were able to pick like an animal that they from their national park and put it into that arrowhead and we’ll 3D print it.

And that can be like their souvenir key chain that they would get from the national parks. Oh, how cool in my mind. I’m going through all of these things. I’m like, well, this is going to take a long time. Like this is going to take the majority of the year to get this done. And so yeah, because you

Kara: have your kids for how long

Matt Skoczylas: I have them for 30 minutes every week.

So once a week they would see me for [00:11:00] 30 minutes, minutes. Okay. So that’s, it’s a, it’s a big job and, and I’m like, well, it’s going to take us a while. Yeah. But. I’m going to be teaching them, you know, Google slides. I’m going to be teaching them, you know, a spreadsheet and we’re going to do Google keep. We’re going to talk about this budget.

And so in the back of my mind, I’m like, well, okay, I’m going to try it. I’m going to, I’m going to give it all that I can and see what we can come up with. And, and going in at the start of that year at the end of beginning of 2019, I’m like, okay, we’re going to go in. I went to my classes. I said, we’re going to do a project and it’s going to take the whole year.

And I’m like, what? What? A whole year? Like what are we going to do? I’m like, just take it easy. We’re going to plan a trip. And we talked about, you know, did you guys go on vacation? Where did you, where would you go on vacation? And I said, well, there’s these great places called you know, national parks.

And then I would show them a video and they’re like, Oh yeah, I know that place. Or I know old faithful or, you know, I’ve seen pictures of the arch [00:12:00] in arches national park. And I’ve seen the, yeah. Redwood forest and things like that. So they, they knew where these kind of where these places were, but not what state they were in, you know?

Yeah. And I guess I should say this project is for fourth grade because all fourth graders get in free to national parks. So it fit in so beautifully with, with the project. And so I’m like at the very end, they’re going to get their international park pass and then they can go. You know, free with our family to these national parks.

So this is a fourth grade lesson, 30 minutes in and out of those classes. And I said, you know, we’re gonna do this project the whole year. And you know what? That whole year up until covid. I did not receive one complaint from them saying, Oh, we’re doing this project again. Or, you know, why do we have to do this?

And it was so neat because you. It changed like it changed a little bit. Like we started with the slideshow and we talked about what national parks would you go to? And I had them narrow it down [00:13:00] to 3. They were going to visit 3 national parks.

Kara: Okay, so each kid

Matt Skoczylas: got to choose 3? Yep. Each student got to choose 3 national parks.

And I said, well, you’ll probably want to visit them. That are some parks that are close by because you don’t want to be traveling. If you’re going on a trip, you don’t want to be traveling from Acadia, all the way over to, you know, the Redwood forest in, in California. So we kind of pinpointed, and I made a map, I made a Google map and I pinpointed all the national parks on them.

So they got to see of the United States where these. These places were and they got to click on them and got to show what park they were. So that was like the first day of class. Okay, where are these national parks? Investigate them. You know, what, what are they? What would you see out there? And then they were able to narrow it down to the three that they would want.

So first, you know, first couple of slides are the three that they picked. And then what’s something that you could do there? What’s one thing? That [00:14:00] it’s known for, you know, so, you know, Yellowstone’s known for. You know, old faithful and they were able to write a little bit about that. So they’re investigating these national parks.

They’re researching them. And then we actually made a Google map. So that was another part of the Google. My maps. You were able to map where your. Park was so we opened up Google Maps. We pinpointed where these parks were. So they actually got to see what state that they were in. If they were close by and I’m like, well, if that’s not close by, you might want to pick another one.

So we got to revisit it a little bit and say, okay, well, this one’s closer. So maybe visit that one instead of You know, the one that you would pick. Yeah. Okay. So we were able to do a slideshow. We were able to do, you know, incorporate Google My Maps with it. And then we talked about the budget. So, okay.

So if you were going to go to these 3 parks, how much would it cost? So I made a template for them to use in Google Sheets, [00:15:00] and that template, you know, talked about the airfare. So naturally, a lot of these parks are in the West. So how are you going to get there? And if you would drive, it’s going to take a lot of time to get out there.

So I had a map that they could see all the different airports that are close by to these national parks. And they got to say, okay, well, if I was going to go to, you know, Yellowstone, Wind Cave, and Badlands, maybe I would fly into Denver. And then on that map, they were able to see, well, it costs, you know, 256 for a plane ticket to fly from Pittsburgh to Denver.

And I would say, well, that’s just for one person, and you can’t go by yourself. So you have to at least take one parent. And then I said, well, you could take maybe your whole family. Maybe that would be nice. Or maybe you want to take a friend, but you have to take at least one adult. So, in the Google spreadsheet, I would say, you know, how much does it cost for [00:16:00] one ticket, then how many people are going, so it would multiply it, and then it would say, okay, it’s going to cost 1, 365.

Just for one way to get to Pittsburgh to Denver. Okay. So you can’t stay out there, right? So you have to travel back. So how much would be your plane ticket back be? So that was just one page of the Google sheet. And that was just one day of class because we had to talk about, you know, flying in what would be the closest.

And then they got to see, okay, wow, that’s all, that’s a lot of money. And, and whenever I would be leaving the class. They would still be talking about it. And I thought it would be, it’s so nice to hear that. Like they’re still talking about class whenever I’m ready to leave. I, I just think that’s so nice.

Because they don’t know the cost of things very well. And, and this gives them that first view.

[00:17:00] So then the next day of class, again, we’re working with these Google sheets. So we have to rent a car. So you can’t stay at the airport, you have to actually , you know, rent a car to get to these places. So I had a list of different cars that they could, could rent and the cost of them. So whether you wanted like a small car, if you were only taking like one or two people or two or three people, if you were going to take a family, you would maybe want a midsize car or if you were taking a lot of people in your family, maybe you would take a minivan or if you wanted to rent an RV, that’s fine too, but it’s just going to cost a lot more money and a lot more gas. So we had to decide what kind of car that they [00:18:00] were take.

Matt Skoczylas: And then we had to decide, you know, I had just different templates of different costs for each car. Okay. And then what we did is we talked about gas mileage. So we had to pinpoint where these things were on the map and in Google Maps, we would map. So how many miles would it be from, you know, Yellowstone to Wind Cave to Badlands on all the way back to your airport again?

So they got their total miles. So then we got your total miles, we got how much the car would cost, how much gas would you need? So we had a formula for that. Oh wow! And then we had the total cost of this transportation. How much is it going to cost just for transportation, your car, your gas? How is that?

How much is that going to cost? So that the last page of the spreadsheet, I had the total, the grand total of it. So we’re adding up the plane ticket. We’re adding up the cost of the transportation. Well, unfortunately, you have to eat. So how much is it going to [00:19:00] cost for your family of, you know, 4 or 5? To eat, you know, they can eat breakfast.

They have to eat breakfast every day. They have to eat lunch every day. They have to eat you know, dinner every day. Are you going to eat out? Are you going to have fast food? Are you going to have a restaurant that you’re going to be eating at? You know, how much is that going to cost? So that in that template of the spreadsheet, they have to tell me, okay, how much is breakfast going to cost?

And I had a A paper for them that says, you know, if you’re going to have a fast food, it’s going to be 4 per person. If you were going to eat at a restaurant, it would be 12. So they were able to look at the template. They fill in the numbers on the spreadsheet. Everybody has to eat. So if you’re taking four people, all four people have to eat.

And then at the very bottom, it adds it all up. So how much does food cost? We talked about that. And then we talked about, okay, you’re going to have food. You’re going to have a car. You have plane tickets. But then, you know, where are you going to stay? And in the national park, you can camp. You [00:20:00] know, you can camp in a tent and things like that.

Or you could get a hotel. That’s either on campus on, on site of the national park or outside of the national park. If you rented an RV, that’s great, but you have to cost that to hook up to a, a campground and, you know, do all that. So we talked about how much is that going to cost for hotels for, you know, seven days, this was going to be a seven day trip.

So finally, the last day, those, these were all consecutive days, you know, the last day, okay, well, you’re going to buy where I want to buy souvenirs and you’re going to want to do things. So that all costs money. So again, I had a template for them to use, you know, maybe you wanted to do a hike while hiking is free.

That’s good. So everybody’s going to do hiking one day, but maybe you’re going to do horseback riding, or maybe you want to rent a kayak and, and kayak down, you know, the snake river at grand Teton. Well, that’s going to cost money. And again, I had a little template for them to follow. And they filled it in and I said, well, this is how much your trip is going to [00:21:00] cost.

And we were able to see all those grain totals. And, and it’s, it’s funny. The average, the average cost I’ve been doing this now for a couple of years now is like 7000 dollars for a national park trip for 7 days. So that’s kind of like the average trip. Wow. But it all started, it all started way back when we went to Acadia, you know, my family and I, they, they loved it.

They got to see, see nature firsthand. They got to see all of this. And I just wanted to bring it back to my kids and say, what can, what can we do? To bring this back, and one of the last things we did right before COVID hit, because this was COVID year 2019 20, the last thing that we did with, with the project was we got VR headsets, and we were able to see and go to some of these parks.

You know, virtually, and that was my last lesson right before we, we left in March of that year. And kids, kids loved it. And like I said, they [00:22:00] never complained. They never said, you know, this lesson again, why are we doing this again? But because I think every lesson was different. It was part of the same project, but they got to see it, see it grow.


Kara: was different. And it, they probably connected to it that it was like a real world use. Right. You know, I think it’ll be something that they’ll remember forever.

Matt Skoczylas: Right. So that year we, we didn’t get to make the medallion print medallion because we didn’t have time. And again, I said it was going to be a whole year.

So the next year, was again coveted the beginning, but we were able to finish the project and we were able to make 3D print medallions for them to take home. They loved it. They were able to present their project to the class. And that’s what that’s really what I wanted them to do is to present each 1 of their, their slide shows to the class.

So they could see, you know, all of these places that they could go to, In the United [00:23:00] States, you know, whether they’re visiting or, you know, whether they are hiking, just, just to be able to see the diversity of our country, you know, the United States. So it, it just exploded after that. And I got to share this project at Pete and C, which is our technology conference in Pennsylvania.

Cool. And then I’m like, well, I want to add more to it. What else can I add to it? So it went from a slide show to a web page. And so now I’m teaching Google sites in for fourth grade and we’re making a page for, you know, each national park. We’re making a page for the budget. We’re making a page for their photos and they can add photos to it.

They’re adding photos, you know, with her background and things like that with them inside of it. It and I love teaching it. It’s 1 of my favorite things. I’m like, I don’t go into the class saying, you know, we’re going to do typing practice today because you are typing because you are, you know, learning math.

You are learning social studies to know where all these [00:24:00] places are. It just connects so nicely. Especially fourth grade because fourth grade uses states and capitals, you know, they’re exploring, you know, the history of expansion. So it just fits really, really nice in my fourth grade curriculum.


Kara: that’s fantastic. I’m going to ask too about the medallions. Okay. Do the kids, okay. Do you have like a template that’s set up? In something like Tinkercad or right. Okay. How does that whole piece of it

Matt Skoczylas: work? So I have a template that is it’s the arrowhead of the National Park and they go into Tinkercad and they make a copy of that.

And then I asked them, okay, so pick one of your national parks and they pick one of the national parks. And I’m like, okay, what’s an animal from that national park? So then we have to do a Google search for that animal and we have to find like a silhouette of it so that the 3d printer can print it out.

So then we talk [00:25:00] about you know, the silhouette. What’s what is a silhouette? And we do a Google search for the silhouette and then we download it. And I’m like, well, this file will not work for the 3D printer. We have to make it into a different type of file, an STL file. So then we talk about how you can convert a file.

So we go to an online converter.

Kara: Oh my gosh, so many great technology lessons.

Matt Skoczylas: So we upload the picture, we download it as an STL file, and then we added it, upload it into Tinkercad. And then they make it into a hole. So, you know, inside of the medallion, there’s the whole of their their animal. Okay. Well, now there’s another step because now you have to share it with me.

So we have to download it. And then we upload it into Google Classroom so I can take it to that, take it to the printer and, and print it out. And that’s one thing that I do. It’s just because their Chromebooks aren’t adjusted to the printer. Right, yeah. So it’s easier for me to just print them out. But then this past year we were able to get a [00:26:00] Glowforge and a Glowforge is a laser printer.

So I’m like, well, I’m going to take this one step, step further here. And instead of the 3d print, I’m going to make it into a laser cut. So it kind of looks like something you would buy at a national park. So what you saw at the Ohio summit was this necklace. It was a wooden one. Transcribed by https: otter.

ai It was 3D, or it was printed by the Glowforge and they would do the same thing in Tinkercad. We just made it into a different file so the laser printer can read it. And usually, the 3D printer, it takes a while. I can do, you know, 10 at a time, and it takes a while for it to print out. But the, the laser cutter, I think I had them all done in like a half an hour.


Kara: my gosh! I’ve always wanted to use a Glowforge. Like they look magnificent. Yes,

Matt Skoczylas: they’re beautiful. Like all the stuff you can do. You can do so many things and that’s one of the things that we’ve done with the Glowforge. We’ve made [00:27:00] like Christmas ornaments and things like that. Oh, cool. It’s just a, a fun, fun tool.

And the kids are like, wow, this, this really looks like something that you would buy at a gift shop at a national

Kara: park. Yeah, it really does. It really does. And before we were going to talk, I, what mine is in my backpack, my work backpack that I carry and our Office administrator. She’s like, I still have mine right here, too.

Like, so we still have our necklaces that we got from you at the conference.

Matt Skoczylas: All right. Well, everybody loved them because at the conference, I’m like, well, here’s, here’s your souvenir from coming to you know, the mountains are calling and, and you must go. So, you know, everybody got a necklace there too.

And It was so much fun to present and I think it just incorporates so much. Like you said, you’re, you’re doing so much technology with this lesson and, and the kids don’t get bored with it. Yeah. And that’s 1 thing I really like about about project based learning. There’s so many things that you can do with project based learning, with [00:28:00] this lesson, I’ve done like a cereal box with my 5th and 6th graders where they had to design a cereal box and relabel like a different cereal and 3D print a spoon. And so. Instead of just like a one and done lesson, like so many people do like, okay, I’m just, we’re just going to do, you know this, this document today.

We’re going to type a document and then be done with it. The next week. We’re going to talk a little bit about how you make a slideshow, which is great, but if you’re incorporating something that they would do in class, or if you’re incorporating something that they, Okay. They are interested in it makes it, you know, 10 times better for them.


Kara: for sure. And like I said before, it’ll be something that they’ll remember

Matt Skoczylas: forever. Right. And I still see like their 3d print their medallions on their backpack, or they’re still wearing their necklace from last year. So it’s nice to see. They’re like, Oh yeah, I still have mine. And they’ll show it to me, you know in fifth and sixth grade.

So it is something that is, is memorable to them. And then Like in our sixth grade class, we also do a webpage there. And I’m like, well, [00:29:00] way back in, in fourth grade, you remember making your, your national Park website? I’m like, oh yeah, yeah. And I’m like, does anybody remember their national park that they went to or they, they investigated and they, and they, they know them.

So it’s something that so cool that they’ll, they will remember and, and hopefully they will get to visit. Now, whenever I do give out my fourth grade passes at the end of the year, I’m like, okay, well. Some national parks, you have to pay to get in and some are free and you, you know, that’s great too. But if you do go to like Yellowstone, you have to pay, your family has to pay to get in, but you don’t and your family doesn’t.

So it’s something that I can share with them. And I did have quite a few, maybe like 10 students that second year or third year go to different national parks. A couple went to Yellowstone, a couple went to, to Badlands or Acadia. So. So it is kind of growing into, into that, or somebody here at, you know, at, at school will say, well, did you ever go to Glacier National Park?

And I’m like, Oh yeah, I’ve been there. And I’ll tell them a little bit about it. So it’s, [00:30:00] it’s fun for me too, because, you know, I collect stickers from my computer and I put them on there and they’re like, Oh, I love your stickers. And so it’s just something for the staff. So I’m known as the, you know, the national park geek here, you know,

Kara: nothing wrong with that.

Right. I love it. Well, okay. So, because this is a huge kind of project based learning like a project, if you were going to give advice to a teacher who wanted to do something like this I, what would you tell them, I guess, just to get them started? Even if it’s not national parks, maybe there’s something else that they’ve thought about like, oh, I’d really like to share that with my students.

Matt Skoczylas: I think I think 1 thing you have to make it personal to the students, something that they’re going to take away from it. Something that they can grow from. And just take it one step at a time and and just build it and like, I, I knew that this project was going to take the whole year and I could probably put it into like a year and a [00:31:00] half now because I have so much material and like we said, even before we started recording, I, it’s like the fastest 30 minutes of their time.

Whenever I hit that room. I’m talking whenever I’m ready to leave. I’m just finishing up and pulling my card out out of the classroom. So I tell him, you know, this is the fastest, fastest 30 minutes of your time here at school. But I think for teachers, just take it like just one step at a time. If you can do one part of it, you know, one day, come back to it, revisit it the next day and just build upon it and just make it bigger and bigger and bigger.

And it’s amazing what you would come up with. Last year, like I said, I did the cereal box unit and I knew I wanted to create something for them to print out and and and investigate like different cereals. How could you marketing with these cereals? And that took a half a year in itself.

Just, you know, overlaying in slideshow. In Google slideshow, how would you, you know, layer things and pull things decorate things and, and build things. So [00:32:00] I’m all into like creating stuff a lot of, a lot of different classes. And that’s another thing for teachers, like don’t stop learning. And every year I try to.

To build something over the summer, take a class or something like that and learn a little bit more that I can bring back to my students. Never stop learning. And I’m 25 years into this technology. And I don’t think I took a summer off just from from learning and taking classes and seeing what I can do more of.


Kara: I love that. And with your cereal box thing, I’m sitting here thinking like, Oh my gosh, you could tie media literacy into that. And like the advertisements and how they’re enticing you to buy and all this kind of stuff.

Matt Skoczylas: Where you put like the, the name of the cereal or, you know, the name of the cereal, where do you, where do you put that on the box?

You put it at the top of the bottom, you know, and characters, where do you place the characters on the box?

Kara: That’s, that’s really cool. What do you think was the biggest takeaway for your students?[00:33:00]

Matt Skoczylas: They like the maps. Students love maps, and they’re always wanting to find their house. Like anytime, whenever I go like into Google Maps, they’re like, oh, I wanna find my house. I wanna find my house. That’s my 1st day. I’m like, okay, well, let’s find your house. Let’s find where Elwood City is. Let’s find what street you might live on.

So they love that. And they love Google. My maps and just to make their own map and pin different places. They love that. You know, and then how you embed it like that. That’s another whole thing. Like, okay, you made this in Google my maps, but now we’re going to put it in in your Google site. So how can you embed that?

So you have to take the embed code and put it into the Google site and they love seeing that. They’re like, wow, that was easy. I’m like, yeah, it doesn’t have to be hard. You know, technology is your friend and it doesn’t have to be that hard. And they love seeing how things would incorporate. Okay.

Whether it’s a slideshow or whether it’s a Google map into into sites sites. Yeah.

Kara: How [00:34:00] cool. And I just keep thinking as you’re talking. I mean, so many real world skills, like,

Matt Skoczylas: right? And that’s technology

Kara: and real life. I

Matt Skoczylas: mean, and that’s what project based life project based learning is. It’s a it’s about You know, learning real world skills and and this this project definitely is is something real world.

The kids kids love it. It’s just it’s just amazing to me. Every every time I go into the class, they’re they’re excited for me to be there. And what are we going to do today? Mr. Scotch list, you know. You told us last week we’re gonna make a Google site. Are we gonna do that? I’m like, yeah, we’re gonna make a site site today and we’re gonna make the banners and we’re gonna put pictures on the banners.

And it’s, it’s just turned out to be such a great lesson. And, and I love teaching that. And I want to do more of, of these projects with the class because one and done is great. But if you can build on something each week. And and have that learning and it’s seven days pass every time whenever I see my my kids.

Yeah, there’s a five day week plus the [00:35:00] weekend. So they do forget. And I’m like, well, you have to remember what we did last time because we’re going to build on it this week. Yeah, it’s just it’s fun to see them take ownership of this, this, project and and at the very end, they’re going to stand up in front of their classmates and they’re going to say, okay, these are my 3 national parks that I picked.

This is me, you know, at old faithful and they’re going to show those pictures. That’s they love that too. Oh, I bet being themselves in these pictures and they’ll pose or their jump. And I’m like, a lot of people jump at these national park signs and I’ll show when we went out to Yellowstone a couple years ago we were able to Pose, you know, in front of these, the signs, we went to grant Teton and Glacier and my girls, they were jumping.

I’m like, well, here’s my daughters at the national park sign. And then I’m like, one of your pictures needs to be of you at the national park sign and you can pose or you can jump. And so I’ll see them jumping in, in the classroom and they’ll be taking [00:36:00] the pictures and then getting the background off, putting them in.

So it’s just fun to, after you say something or after you teach something just to stand back and stay. They’re, they’re doing this, you know, they can actually do this and it’s fun to see them grow and learn that way.

Kara: Yeah, that is just so cool. So I am so thankful for you sharing this with everybody, willing, being willing to chat with me so that we can share this with our listeners, because I just think it’s a really cool project and I hope it inspires

Matt Skoczylas: somebody.

Great. Well, those who are listening, you know, investigate project based. And if there’s something that you enjoy, because if you enjoy it, you’re going to share that joy with your kids as well. So I’m, I’m passionate about these national parks, and I think the kids become passionate about their project as well learning about the park.

So if it’s something that you enjoy, and you can get some kind of learning through into your kids, they’re, they’re going to [00:37:00] love it.

Kara: I love that. Thank you so much, Matt.