Five key elements, it seems to me, need to be present in a school for it to be exemplary. I refer to these elements as the Five Pillars of an Exemplary School. These five pillars include –
1) Intentional Friendship
2) Management Without Coercion
3) Relevant, Engaging Curriculum
4) Mastery through Effective Assessment, and
5) Applied Christianity (public schools can easily change number 5 to Applied Caring or Applied Compassion or Applied Community).

I sometimes get a question regarding #3 and the challenge of developing engaging lessons, so today’s blog features a Washington elementary school and a project that appears to be luring students toward significant engagement. I share the following video for two reasons – 1) the prosthetic hands project is a wonderful way to make learning relevant and real, and 2) I plan on donating to this worthy cause and I wanted to give you a chance to do that, too. Here’s the video –


Chris Duckett, the grades 5-8 teacher at UCA Elementary School in Spangle, Washington, used to be a student of mine when I was principal of Foothills Elementary School in St. Helena, California, between the years 1985-1993. I am so pleased that Chris has gone on to become a teacher himself and to share his passion for learning and for making a positive difference in the world.

Recognizing important connections, Chris wrote –

In regards to Choice Theory and The Better Plan, I see this project as creating a learning environment where students look forward to coming back to school each day, it requires teamworkcollaboration with professionals, critical thinking & evaluating to create a quality product. To me the most exciting part of this project is how it meets a specific need in the community/nation/world. Speaking of needs, I also see it as helping meet a couple of Choice Theory’s basic needs:
Love and Belonging – This project gives students the opportunity to love others by creating a product that gives them a new ‘hand’ on life. It can also help them belong because teamwork is essential for the success of the project. The curriculum referred to above does just that as it gives each team member a specific task in the process of designing, printing, assembling, testing & sharing the prosthetic hand.

Joy and Fun – My students and I anticipate having a lot of fun using 3D software and a 3D printer, especially since we know we’ll be helping others in the process!

Thank you, Chris, on so many levels for your vision and your perseverance to see this project through to implementation. If you wish to help Chris and his students fund this project, go to


And since we are talking about relevance and engagement in the classroom, here’s a short video clip from Edutopia that captures relevance in a Chemistry classroom. Very cool.


It would be awesome if these clips inspired you to share ideas that have engaged students in your classroom. Love to hear from you!


Get signed copies of the Glasser biography, Champion of Choice, from me for $25, which includes shipping to anywhere in the U.S. (This is less than Amazon.)

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I can now sell for lower than Amazon. Get the book from me, anywhere in the U.S., shipping included for $25.