Challenge Bank

The Critical Skills model of instruction builds powerful lessons in classrooms ranging from pre-K to post-graduate. The model combines experiential learning, problem based learning, and rigorous high standards within an intentionally created collaborative learning community, creating the classrooms that many educators imagine, but can’t quite put together. It is the “how” in answer to the “what” of powerful classroom practice. And it was created, continues to be created, by practicing classroom teachers.

The primary methodology in use is the challenge — a carefully crafted problem to solve which connects the curriculum to its real-world application. Challenges can be highly complex or quite simple, may take minutes or weeks to complete, and are driven by the state, local, or national subject area curricula as well as by the formative assessment gained via ongoing student reflection. Elementary students may grapple with the problem of selecting the largest apple to present to the principal following a field trip, secondary students might be seeking alternative energy transportation options for the district or creating a new grammar text using only a small set of short stories and newspaper articles. The exact challenges are as diverse as the teachers who create them and the students for whom they are created. But all share three components:

  1. The students engage
  2. The students exhibit their learning
  3. The students debrief their learning

Download sample challenges below (Word format).

Click here to view the Adirondack Challenges: student-centered, K-12 learning activities designed by classroom teachers to specifically help students learn about and develop appreciation for the human and natural history of the Adirondacks, as well as meet state and national learning standards.

Maximizing Math with Math Triath
Maryland Critical Skills Institute Participant Courtney Leard’s website dedicated to her Critical Skills math challenges.

Title Subject Grade Level
Vermont Welcome Center Barn Replicas Social Studies Elementary
Barn Restoration Challenge Social Studies Elementary
Barns of Today and Long Ago Social Studies Elementary
Pictue Book Modeling English Elementary
Branches of US Government Social Studies Elementary
Building a School Model Social Studies Elementary
Name that Rock! Science Elementary
The trial of John Brown Social Studies Elementary
Biography of the Land Social Studies Elementary
Pattern Challeges Math Elementary
Science & Cooking Science Elementary
Oral History Social Studies Elementary
Recycling Challenge Science Elementary
Slavery Social Studies Elementary
Solar Power for Schools Science Elementary
Wool Social Studies Elementary
Creating wool baby hats Social Studies Elementary
Citizens in a Global Society Social Studies High School
Coffeehouse English High School
Elizabethan Sonnets English High School
Scenario Challenge: 11th grade English English High School
Creative Writing: Fiction Fondue English High School
Name That Grammar Skill! English High School
Vive le franVais! Foreign Languages High School
Garden Geometry Math High School
The Great Gatsby English High School
Introduction to Hand Tools Carpentry High School
Imperialism Social Studies High School
Of Mice and Men English High School
PE Muscle Challenge PE High School
Music as the Universal Language Music High School
Planning & Implementing Snack FACS High School
Introduction to Power Tools Carpentry High School
Government and Personal Liberties Social Studies High School
Mousetrap Cars Science High School
Senior Citizen Fitness PE High School
French Verb Tenses - Past tense Foreign Languages High School
Weightroom Challenge PE High School
Ancient Native Americans Social Studies Middle School
Animal Exhibits Science Middle School
Math Skills Basic Math Middle School
Amending the Bill of Rights Social Studies Middle School
Collaborative Writing English Middle School
Early Explorers of North America Social Studies Middle School
Fahrenheit 451 English Middle School
NH Geography Social Studies Middle School
South American Birthday Surprise Math Middle School
Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars, but how did they get there? Social Studies Middle School
Quilt Geometry Math Middle School
Local Field Trips Social Studies Middle School
Peterborough History Social Studies Middle School
Biography of the Land, 5th/6th grade Social Studies Middle School
Creating a field guide for macroinvertebrates Science Middle School
Narrative Writing English Middle School
Paleontology Science Middle School
Safety Procedures Science Middle School
Shakespeare English Middle School
Math Skill Building Math Middle School
Math Skills Multiplication Math Middle School
A Letter to the Editor Foreign Languages Middle School
A Bilingual Story Books Foreign Languages Middle School
Spanish Explorers Foreign Languages Middle School
Music Styles Music Middle School
Tornado Challenge Science Middle School
Vocabulary Challenge English Middle School
Salmon Brook Watershed Science Middle School
Wildlife Documentary Science Middle School