Buck Institute for Education

Choose Your Own Adventure

Author: Stacey Lopaz

What will my students be doing?

In the Choose Your Own Adventure project, students explore their state and family history by answering the Driving Question, “What makes people take a risk?”

What's Included:

  • Project Overview
  • 8 Essential Elements of PBL
  • Sequence of the Project
  • Step-By-Step Teaching Guide
  • Student Handouts
  • Teacher Materials

Current Version: January 10, 2018

4th grade is the year when students across the United States study their state’s history. This provides an opportunity for students learn about people in their family in the past who took risks to shape their futures and who helped provide the students with the opportunities from which they currently benefit.

In the Choose Your Own Adventure project, students explore their state and family history by answering the Driving Question, “What makes people take a risk?”

Using examples of risk taking from personal and state history, taken from a variety of literary contexts, students create their own Choose Your Own Adventure interactive stories. They combine family histories with those of two other students and develop outcomes based on historical probability. Student teams present their adventures in an interactive presentation with an audience of parents and other students.

This project is designed to teach state history to 4th graders in a manner authentic to their own lives and experiences. The aim of this project is"for students to learn more about the motives that brought settlers to their state or country, and to explore decisions that were made and risks that were taken in the process. In teaching this project, there should also be an intentional connection to the students themselves and the risks that have been taken for them and also the risks they have taken and would like to take in the future.

Project Notes

  • Subjects: ELA, Social Studies
  • Grade Level: 4th
  • Common Core Aligned
  • Time Required: 10-15 Hours
  • CC BY

Sponsored By


My students love history and are always the most engaged in class when reading stories, both fiction and nonfiction, that are set in different time periods. This project stems from a desire to teach California history in a way that feels both exciting and relevant to my students, capitalizing on their love of the past. I did not want my students to recreate a scene that they read about in history or merely write about inventions of that time period, but rather to make a meaningful connection between events in their past and their lives today.

Student Work

Exhibition Night Photos
Students share family stories through interactive activities with the public. visit »

Project Documents

Project Author

Stacey began teaching in New Orleans, LA as a 2002 Teach for America corps member. After spending two years working as a 5th and 6th grade teacher, she left in search of a school where she could continue her work with diverse student populations while also embracing a more progressive approach to education. She found that at High Tech High, where she has worked in various capacities ober the past 8 years. As a founding member of High Tech Middle Media Arts, she worked for three years teaching 6th grade math/science, while concurrently acting as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. At that time she transitioned into the role of Director. Now Stacey works as a founding teacher at High Tech elementary (HTe), teaching 4th grade.

Stacey received her B.A. in Human Development, with an area of focus in Biology and Chemistry at the University of California, San Diego. She earned a Master’s in School Leadership at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education.