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The Story of ACP & Our PBL Project Planner


A little over a year ago, Gina, Kristy, and I started this little adventure called Applied Coaching for Projects (ACP) together. That milestone caused me to reflect on the evolution of my professional growth as a result of knowing them and how lucky I am to have them both as two of my closest friends. It felt fitting to share more of how our bond began and how we are returning to the roots that brought us together.

Coaching Workshop

Gina, Kristy, and I developed a strong working relationship and eventually became good friends due to our mutual passion for Project-Based Learning. Gina was a permanent member of the staff at the Buck Institute for Education (now known as PBLWorks), where she led the curriculum department. She needed help in redesiging a PBL Coaching Workshop, which is where Kristy and I came in as consultants. Collaborating together on this project strengthened our connection and led to lasting friendship.

To give you some context, Kristy and I were only acquaintances at the time. Though we were friendly with each other, we weren't exactly close friends. Recently, Kristy revealed that she considers herself a part of "Team Aggressively Friendly" - you know, one of those people who knows everyone and is so lovely that everyone tends to be friends with them. She learned this term from our mutual friend, Ellie Foust, who is the founding member of the team. Kristy fits perfectly into this category, and I would say that Gina, too, belongs to this group. Gina is always so kind and generous that people naturally want to be friends with her. In contrast, I'm the complete opposite. I tend to avoid mingling with people outside my circle. People have described me as being a bit rough around the edges, so I'm sure that Kristy and her Team Aggressively Friendly might have been unsure how to approach me at first.

So, back to my story: the three of us began this endeavor of creating the workshop. Team Aggressively Friendly eventually pulled me into their madness and made me drop my rough edges. Kristy and I started talking on the phone every day about the workshop. I would always have wild ideas that would keep me up at night in a crazy brainstorming session. When my ideas were too wacky or would take too much time, she would call me "shingles" because, yes, I got shingles due to stress and lack of sleep during the creation process.

At first, Kristy and I talked every day about work, but it changed to be more and more about our lives over time. I now know when she drops her daughter off at school, picks her up, and what days her daughter goes to Ninja Warrior classes. Kristy now can tell all my moods, like the exact moment when to leave me alone.

Finding Our In and Out of Work People

Anytime we would get stuck or have an overly complicated idea, Gina was always the one to smooth it and make it meaningful and helpful to others. Kristy and I would literally geek out on the phone, sharing how stunned and lucky we are to be in a situation where we get to learn directly with someone of Gina's caliber. Gina was utterly out of our league when it came to designing, but at the same time, she was so giving to teach us and let us grow under her guidance.

As we continued working together, we gradually discovered how effective our collaboration was, and we actively sought out other opportunities to work together. Positive and productive relationships in the workplace are not always easy to come by, but we always knew the three of us had something special together because together we all grew.

Through working together, the three of us formed a tight friendship. There is not a single day I go without messaging or talking to them. So when Kristy had her idea of her collaboration e-book, she knew she wanted to do it with Gina and me. I should also note that Kristy despises writing. When she asked us to help write a book, I think we had to pick our jaws off the floor. That is how ACP began. We wanted to find ways to collaborate no matter where life took us to share and help educators in the ways that we could.

Upcoming HQPBL E-Book

Lately, we have been sharing a lot of thoughts and resources surrounding HQPBL. Project-Based Learning is what brought us together, and while we were focused on other pressing topics, we knew it was time to share our knowledge, strategies, and beliefs with all of you. Behind the scenes, we are working on our next e-book, all about HQPBL. We are aiming for a late November release.

We are still in outline mode, but an unspoken core value we have at ACP is practicality, and we hope that comes through in our next book. I am sure we have all bought a book on a classroom strategy or pedagogy and thought it seemed terrific, but questioned how we would ever have time to not only figure it out but implement it successfully. Our goal with this e-book is to make it short, achievable, and practical. We will break down each HQPBL criteria, explain what it looks like in action, ways to get started, and provide a few tips.

Our HQPBL Project Planner

As we began drafting, we realized we also wanted to create resources to help people get started. Learning a new pedagogy and style of teaching can be a lot to hold. When I first started, I used some excellent project planners but forgot some significant components that made something project-based. It was all too much for me to remember at the start of my PBL journey.

To help scaffold the process, we used the HQPBL learning experience Kristy created and Gina's brilliant mind at creating helpful planners to make our own. Our planner consists of 4 major components:

  1. General project overview - This gives the big picture of the project and includes many of the HQPBL criteria.

  2. Project Setup/Launch - This helps consider what experience you could do that might generate interest and wonder.

  3. Investigation Cycles - This will help you plan your daily lessons that center around the inquiry process. We have included 2 to demonstrate that inquiry should be ongoing in a project.

  4. Public Product Showcase - This section helps you plan for the public product and how students will prep and reflect.

Here is a preview of our project planner with options on how to download for your own use below:

ACP - Teacher Project Plan (3)
Download PDF • 159KB

We hope this helps you plan so that you don't have to worry about missing anything. We tried to design our planner to make it easier for you to plan your amazing projects. Like everything we do, we encourage adaptation and making things your own, so modify, adapt, and change what makes sense to you.


At the beginning of this blog, I shared and reflected on how ACP originated and the friendships I am fortunate to have with Gina and Kristy. While I was writing this blog, a conversation I had when I began teaching came to my mind. A veteran teacher named Tim, who had been teaching for 30 years, noticed that I kept to myself at school and suggested that I connect with more adults. Tim revealed that people always thought that the students kept him in the profession, but his secret to staying in education was finding his network of people and getting support from other educators.

I'm grateful to Tim for giving me this advice early on in my career because he was right. Even after just a few years, I was already experiencing teacher burnout, even though I loved my students and teaching. But finding dependable colleagues like Gina and Kristy has kept me going for the past 15 years. I encourage you to make an effort to connect with your colleagues this week, even if you feel like you don't have time. Just five minutes of conversation can help energize you to keep going.

We look forward to sharing more about our next e-book soon!


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