George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teaching Students to Work Together

Integrated curricula, team teaching, and technology tools have built up the academic achievement and self-esteem of these rural Louisiana middle school students. Read the article.
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Teacher: We're in a mandatory evacuation situation now. You're looking at anywhere from 10 to 14, 15 feet of storm surge, parish wide.

Narrator: A hurricane is bearing down on New Orleans.

Student: Okay, right now I'm going to need the fire department.

Narrator: And eighth graders from Landry Middle School, have assembled at the nearby emergency response center to deal with the mock crisis.

Student: Do we deliver babies?

Student: We're going to try.

Student: How are we going to get the paramedic to her house?

Student: We're going to send two paramedics.

Narrator: Power is out, bridges are down, and a pregnant woman is calling for help. The situation demands clear judgment, teamwork and improvisation.

Student: Two minutes apart. That baby is coming out.

Student: So we have any type of transportation?

Student: Don't we have-- oh, the truck, you know, the drive through water--

Student: It's like a Hummer.

Student: So we're going to use that truck to bring the paramedics to her house.

Dianne: Anytime we teach and we use real relevant real life experiences, kids are immersed in those experiences and learning is fun. And the bottom line is when learning is fun, it's easy and it comes quick to the kids, and they enjoy it.

Narrator: After some anxious moments, the storm passes, and science teacher Linda Watsky quizzes her class on what they've gained from the exercise.

Student: I will always remember the stress. I mean, it's hard being Parish President, you've got people, like, you know, Christie over here, well you've got a fire over here, and let's say, Teneesha over here, a tree fell down over here. And I'm, okay, well all right, okay, well then, okay, then I'm going to do this. All right, and then it's stressful. I mean, you've got to listen to so many things at one time.

Linda: Okay, how does what we were learning in class, relate to this? What does it take to solve a problem? Do you always have to be right the first go round?

All: No.

Linda: Okay, so the same with, in scientific method. The difference in class is you're solving it to learn knowledge. In here, you're solving it to save people's lives, and I think that's where the stress comes in.

Teacher: The back of your car has to be on this line.

Narrator: Not all of Landry's class work is stressful.

Teacher: If you hold it just there for your partner.

Narrator: In fact, much of the hands on project based learning here is downright fun.

Teacher: Okay?

Narrator: To engage their students at the end of the year, the eighth grade teachers came up with a project focusing on cars. In science class, students made balloon propelled cars out of recycled materials, and road tested their various designs.

Teacher: Oh, it curved, look at that.

Narrator: Like most Landry projects, the car unit was featured across the eighth grade curriculum.

Teacher: Try to write some different selling points.

Narrator: In language arts, students wrote car commercials, and in math, they calculated loan payments.

Teacher: At six percent, of whatever you get for item number seven.

Student: So multiply six percent--

Teacher: Percent times that.

Student: Okay.

Narrator: They also used the web to plan trips and find information on fuel economy and environmental impacts.

Student: Not only is the vehicle going to save the earth, it also comes with most standard features that all consumers really, really like.

Narrator: And they evaluated pitches from local car salesmen.

Salesman: Here you can see, this truck, at least, it's fully equipped, it has cruise control, the tilt steering wheel, it has power windows and power door locks, and power mirrors.

Student: How much does it take to fill up the tank? How much it costs?

Salesman: And that's going to be close to 40 dollars for, you know, an empty tank.

Teacher: In the math thing, they were very much into it. We talked about--

Narrator: The eighth grade teachers coordinate their efforts and evaluate the progress of projects during their daily 45 minute shared time.

Teacher: And we had little scenarios where they reached in the bag and pulled out whether they're single or whether they have three kids, so when they went to pick the cars, it was like, you know, I want this car that's 147,000, but my income on my profile card says, all I'm making is 48,000 dollars, but I have to take care of three kids.

Narrator: For these teachers, the benefits of team teaching extend beyond curriculum development.

Dianne: One of the things that the kids say, is they see that we work as a team. Plus that's also the way the business world is run, in teams. So what we expect them to be able to do, as young adults, that is what we practice here, so that they can see the real world connection.

Student: The downpayment you gave was 1,000, so more or less what you have is 48. So this is how much you wanted to pay, but--

Narrator: At Landry, students practice teamwork, too.

Student: Are you lost? Are you getting me?

Student: I got you.

Student: You got me? So what happens is, you have to pay the bank back.

Narrator: Students of varying abilities are grouped in teams of four, which often include older students needing extra help.

Jont'e: We don't really work by ourselves. Because we sit in groups, and if we have a question, well, if we don't know it, then we ask, like, our peers and our pupils, and if they don't know it, then we ask the teacher, because it's really like a community. We stay-- we're one big family, and we are the Landry family and we help each other out.

Linda: I've had kids come back to me and tell me, "Do you remember that project we did?" They have never, ever come back and said, "Remember that test we did?" So I think that's the impact. If the kids remember, test scores will go up, and our test scores have.

Student: We need two and two, because--

Mentor: I know another Y. I'm doing Ys over one.

Narrator: Volunteer mentors from local industry are also part of the Landry family.

Paul: We come here once a week, and we get the satisfaction of working with excellent students and seeing the future.

Narrator: And when new technology is thrown into the mix, learning is a blast.

Teacher: Out. Go back, same way, in and out, in and out.

Paul: We're doing a study of motion and graphing. We're letting the students see that, as they walk, this motion detector here, graphs their path, and we're going to show them that their walk can be interpreted into math.

Teacher: You see it? Where's that gap? The gap is way up there, you know why? What is it reading?

Student: Nothing.

Teacher: It read nothing, it read the wall. So we--

Narrator: While students, teachers and community members work in teams throughout the year, the ultimate test of teamwork at Landry, comes when a group of traveling circus professionals arrives.

Narrator: Known as Circus of the Kids, they spend two weeks turning ordinary students into high flying acrobats and accomplished performers who delight and terrify an audience of peers and parents.

Vanessa: It raises their self esteem, lets them know that, as long as you try, you know, at anything, you can do your best. You just have to be positive. It's kind of dangerous, but if they teach them well, actually, yeah, he was a fire eater. So I just was glad when it was over.

Student: And now for your entertainment our jugglers, Amanda--

Student: At first when I heard about it, I was like, circus, you know, I can't do this, I'm not even going to try. But when they started showing me how to do this, they demonstrated it for us, and it was like, okay, well maybe I can do it. And I started doing it, and realized, I'm really good at this stuff.

Narrator: For more information on, What Works in Public Education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Ashley Ball
  • Miwa Yokoyama


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • John D. Pope
  • Hans van den Bold
  • Ken Ellis


  • Kris Welch

Original Music:

  • Ed Bogas

Additional Footage Provided by

  • Circus of the Kids
  • St. Charles Parish Public Schools
  • Tommy Faucheux

Editor's Note: Since this video was produced, the students of Landry Middle School have moved into a new building, Raymond K. Smith Middle School, with Harold Blood as principal. Landry principal Dianne Powell is now running alternative programs for the St. Charles Parish Public Schools at the site of her old school.

Comments (6) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


I am doing my ed admin thesis in middle level edu and I found the video to be outstanding. I would like more info about your school

Diane's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Eual J. Landry Middle School
108 Tiger Circle
Hahnville, LA 70057
Diane Powell, Principal
Phone: (985) 783-6636
Fax: (985) 783-6638

Lening's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Very interesting video! I am getting more and more excited about team teaching after reading your article.

Hypotheek's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Excellent video. I found this video through Google and I also would like to have more information about your school and team teaching.

Sparen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Good project! Here in the Netherlands they started something similar, but it is very successful ... yet

cmuench's picture

I am really glad to see a middle school with innovative ideas. I need to find more for my school. We need to move past the same old stuff and get our kids more engaged.

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