In the online collaborative project That's the Way the Cookie Tumbles, students stack Oreos one at a time until the cookies come tumbling down. The results of their experimentation, combined with the project's supplementary interdisciplinary activities, help students have fun as they learn math, science, geography, technology, teamwork, and more. The project is open to students around the world; so far, classes from more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Australia, and Uzbekistan have signed up. What about you? Included: Ideas for participating in -- and sponsoring -- online collaborative projects.
"I teach my students in the way I learned best when I was a student," Jennifer Wagner recently told Education World. "I need learning to be hands-on, and I need it to be fun." One way Wagner accomplishes those goals is through her yearly Oreo Project -- an online collaborative activity in which students use "the world's most popular cookie" to learn math, science, geography, technology, teamwork, and more.
"We needed data for the project," Wagner added, "and the Internet seemed to be an interesting place to gather data. So, on a whim, I posted the Oreo project topic -- "Do kids really eat the middle of an Oreo first and save the chocolate cookie for last?" -- to the EdTech discussion group. Within two weeks, I had heard from more than 50 participants."
For more information about the Oreo 2000 project, see the Education World article How Do You Eat Your Oreos?.Since that almost accidental beginning, Wagner and her students have repeated the Oreo Project -- with a slightly different theme -- each year. In 2000, students in 96 schools participated in To Bite or Not to Bite?, in which they answered the question "How do you eat an Oreo? Do you twist it, break it, or eat it whole?" -- eating 6,561 Oreos along the way. In 2001, students from 52 schools ate 2,067 Oreos while participating in To Dunk or Not To Dunk?, a survey that investigated the percentage of Oreo eaters who dunk their cookies.
This year, project participants are exploring how high they can stack Oreos before the cookies tumble -- and crumble. In That's the Way the Cookie Tumbles, which begins September 15, 2002, participants stack Oreos one at a time until the stack falls down. As they stack the cookies, students record both the height of the stack and the number of Oreos used. Their teachers then complete and submit the project results form. Wagner posts on the project Web site all the data received, displaying results for the most Oreos stacked as well as the average of all Oreos stacked -- in both graph and picture format.
Wagner's project follows a true scientific model, and rules are strict. Participants are permitted only three tries to stack the Oreos to their maximum height. Oreos may be stacked only in a single "tower" -- no pyramids or other configurations are allowed. The cookies may not be "manipulated" in any way -- no glue or other adhesives may be used -- and the Oreos may not be smoothed or reshaped. Finally, only authentic, original Oreos filled with vanilla creme may be stacked -- no double-stuffed Oreos or Oreos containing chocolate or orange creme. "We really want this project to be fair to all schools," Wagner said. "This way, we know everyone is starting with the same materials, and so the project is more scientifically sound."
The Oreo project is open to all students in all grade levels in public and private schools and in home schools around the world. Students from New Zealand, Africa, and almost every state in the United States have participated in previous Oreo projects. Several schools, Wagner noted, come back to the projects year after year.
So far, more than 150 classrooms in about 30 U.S. states, Canada, Australia, and Uzbekistan have signed up for this year's project. To help participants get to know one another electronically, Wagner provides an interactive Guest Map at the project Web site; participants may mark their locations and post messages. Visitors can see the map and read the messages too! One of this year's messages expresses the students' confidence that they're "gOREOing to have a good time" participating in the project. That is just what Wagner wants to hear. "My feeling is that if kids aren't having fun learning, then they really aren't learning," she says.
This year's Oreo project site offers a number of resources for project participants and visitors alike, including project-related math, science, language arts and art ideas, and recipes. Work sheets include an Oreo maze, word search, Internet hunt, and math activity.
The lessons and work sheets are intended to enable teachers of various grade levels to participate in the project by making it more challenging for older students and more understandable for younger students. Participating teachers are invited to submit additional Oreo-based lessons and activities.
To Wagner, the most important aspect of the project isn't the lessons and activities though. The real benefits, she said, are that kids have fun learning and teachers are enthused about working with their students.
"I've been amazed at how my world has expanded because of this project," Wagner added. "I now have friends and colleagues all over the world! When I stop and think about how much my life has changed as a result of these projects and about how big my world has become because of them, I know that I have been blessed more than I ever imagined or hoped for."
"My students' world also is expanding," Wagner noted, "because their teachers' worlds are expanding. At first, only one or two teachers here participated in collaborative projects. This year, the entire school is participating in the Oreos project -- and two CCS teachers are co-sponsoring projects of their own."
To Wagner's students, of course, their "expanding world" is not the best part of the project -- eating the Oreos is!
Wagner, who has sponsored a number of collaborative projects during the last several years, including a Skittles activity, a 12 Days of Christmas project, and an Easter Egg Roll, has two more projects planned for later this year -- M&M to the Max in January and the Great 'Egg'change in the spring! She also has this advice for teachers interested in sponsoring their own collaborative projects: "Just jump in and go for it. Don't stop and think of all the political and technical obstacles; learn as you go. Sure, there are standards to meet and rules to follow -- but most of all, just provide an interesting way for your kids to learn, and everything else will fall into place." Wagner also suggests that teachers take the time to look at what other educators are doing."Even if you don't end up sponsoring your own collaborative activity, maybe you'll find an up-and-running project that you and your students can participate in."
Why not start with the Oreos Project 2002? It's not too late to register!