PM4Kids (project management for students in elementary school)

What if, as a hiring manager, you had the difficult decision of choosing between a candidate with impeccable technical skills or a candidate with excellent project management and technical skills? Which candidate do you think would add more value to your project-driven organization? Unfortunately, this is a dilemma that most hiring managers are faced with as most candidates have either great technical skills and low-level project management skills or experience or great project management skills and fair or broad technical experience. The reason for this is most schools concentrate on the technical disciplines leaving students to discover project management after they graduate and are placed with employers. Employers then must pay to educate these new hires in project management or they learn on their own through trial and error. A new program called PM4Kids is attempting to correct this situation by teaching students project management beginning at the grade-school level.

The PM4Kids Program

PM4Kids is a part of a set of programs offered by PM4Life. PM4Life is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to introducing the concepts, terminology, techniques, and practices of project management to those who would not normally be exposed to the discipline. PM4Kids began in Rochester, New York in 1993. It was established by Edithe Drewery-Brown, PMP, an information systems project manager. Edithe developed the program as a response to elementary and high schools that asked her to speak at their career and superintendents day programs and as part of the Student Shadowing Day programs sponsored by local businesses in the Rochester, New York area. In October 2000, Edithe met James R. Snyder of the PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF) at the PMI conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In April 2001, James worked with the PMIEF Board to provide a grant to facilitate the establishment of the PM4Life organization and the formal establishment of the PM4Kids program. Soon after, PMIEF announced that PM4Kids was one of its keystone programs. The Rochester, New York PMI chapter and several other not-for-profit organizations provided volunteers to assist in both the establishment of the business and the delivery of the programs to local schools. Domestic and international volunteers offered their services to provide business and strategic planning, product design and development, curriculum development, fundraising and grant writing assistance, and workshop development and delivery.

Since 1993 the PM4Kids program has grown significantly working with Rochester area private and public schools and exposing more than 500 students in grades three through twelve to the theory, concepts, practices, and techniques of project management. Chapter members and other local business people volunteer to attend or facilitate PM4Kids workshops or work as program leads in the PM4Life organization as it builds curriculums and other programs and product offerings. PM4Life secured the support of the Rochester City School District to gain permission and access to local public schools. Many schools in the Rochester, New York area have taken advantage of the PM4Kids program. They are: #38 School, Nazareth Hall, Mother of Sorrows, Terry Taylor, Kirk Road Elementary School, Edison Occupational and Technical High School, Benjamin Franklin High School, Saint Monica's Elementary School, the Eastman Kodak Explorers Post, and Rush Henrietta High School. In addition, the PM4Kids program has received inquiries from many local chapters both domestic and international. Some of the chapters showing interest are: The Long Island City Chapter, Chicagoland chapter, Silicon Valley Chapter, Raleigh, North Carolina chapter, and Binghamton, New York chapter. In addition to the local chapter interest a large number of chapter members have indicated interest in obtaining training or establishing PM4Kids workshops in their local areas.

Last year PMIEF hosted the PM4Kids program at their booth at the annual conference in Nashville, TN. PM4LIfe has several very dedicated volunteers who have come together to deliver this program to those who request it. These volunteers have contributed a great deal to the packages and collaterals that were created for this endeavor. PM4Life is always seeking additional volunteers who may wish to participate in workshop delivery, curriculum design and development or assist with the fundraising efforts. Fundraising is particularly important since schools typically don't have money for the materials and the materials are consumable.

In addition to PMI members PM4Life welcomes the support of the education community. The support of this body is critical to the success of the PM4Kids program as it is educators who we depend upon to learn about and drive the project management concepts forward in the classroom after the volunteers have departed. It is important to build strong relationships between the PMI local chapter and the education community so that acceptance of the program will facilitate its delivery to students in the classroom.

PM4Kids Program Description

The PM4Kids program is a half-day workshop delivered by PMI professional project managers. The objective of the workshop is to help young people understand and use the concepts of project management to organize and deliver their schoolwork assignments and projects. The workshops are suitable for students in the third through eighth grade as well as students attending high school. With some modification, it can also be made suitable to students in lower grades and in college.

The workshop consists of a presentation, role-play exercise, learning mat exercise, and school project development. The purpose of the presentation and workshop is to introduce students to the theory and concepts of project management and show them how they can practically apply these concepts and techniques to better organize and prepare their school assignments. The objectives of the workshop are to:

•   Increase student's organizational skills

•   Develop communication skills

•   Develop teamwork skills

•   Teach the importance of on time completion of tasks and assignments

•   Teach responsibility and accountability

•   Develop coordination skills

•   Teach students how to manage supporting resources.

The presentation is given in two parts. Part One covers the details (at a high level) of project management. A definition of a project and project management is provided. A brief overview of six pertinent project management knowledge areas is included along with a discussion on how these areas relate to the completion of schoolwork assignments. Part Two is a game and role-play exercise. The purpose of the game is to allow students to apply the concepts in a role-play format. The game teaches students to use project management techniques in practical application. The learning mat exercise, developed by David Johnston, provides students with an additional opportunity to derive information about project management and see how it was applied to projects they are familiar with such as the Pyramids or the Hoover Dam. The final activity of the workshop consists of a question and answer session and a mini-project planning exercise. The questions are structured so students can relate the roles and practices of project management to their academic environment and the project planning exercise lets students use project management scheduling techniques to plan a project they are scheduled to deliver. The total time frame for completion of the presentation and miniworkshop is approximately four hours or one half day. A successful workshop requires a group of volunteers from the local chapter and/or the local business community.

Acquisition of Volunteers

Volunteers play a vital role in the delivery of PM4Kids workshops and programs. Volunteers are required in order to conduct PM4Kids workshops. Volunteers coach the students in their various roles. They are also useful for acquiring and scheduling workshops and delivering PM4Kids coach training sessions. Seven or more volunteers are needed to conduct a PM4Kids workshop. They are: The project manager student coach, the customer student coach, a resource coach for the three resources, and three coaches for each set of observers. One coach for the students observing the project manager student role player, one coach for the students observing the customer student role player, and one coach for the students observing the resource role players. In addition to these coaches an additional volunteer is needed to add “risk” to the project. Volunteers should be provided training a few days prior to the workshop and there is a volunteer training booklet available from PM4Kids that describes the roles and other coaching activities that occur during workshops.

Establishment of PM4Kids Workshop Programs

In order to establish the PM4Kids program in a chapter area other volunteers are also necessary. There should be at least one person in the chapter responsible for coordinating the workshop shop scheduling and logistics, volunteer training, development and certification, and workshop publicity, marketing and communications. This PMI representative may also be the liaison to the school district or individual school authority, such as the principal or headmaster and to the teacher or class instructor. Acquiring and maintaining a relationship with the school district is an important aspect of support for deployment of the PM4Kids programs and workshops.

Acquiring School and School District Participation

In order to acquire school participation a formal request must be made and information provided about the workshop to a teacher and the principal or headmaster of the school via individuals who have children attending the school or chapter members interested in presenting workshops to the school. PM4Life can send the materials (brochures and information packets) for school presentations. PM4Life representatives are also available to coach individuals planning to make presentations to schools via conference calls or on-site visits. During the presentation an explanation of the benefits to the students must be provided. This information is contained in the packet. When speaking to school officials the linkage between the program and the schools objectives must be made. School authorities must understand how the PM4Kids program can facilitate the learning process and benefit the students participating in the workshop PM4Life can provide names of the schools and program references where workshops have been held. Some of the challenges faced by PM4Life revolve around the academic atmosphere. School officials tend to be extremely busy fighting fires daily. It is difficult to schedule meetings or get the appropriate people all in one place at one time. Multiple meetings may be necessary in order to accomplish your objective. Guidelines must be established at the initiation of the relationship so clear expectations and desired outcomes are understood.

Next Steps for PM4Kids

PM4Life Inc., a not-for-profit organization, was formed at the request of PMIEF after it was presented a grant in 2000 to formally establish a business to deliver and administer PM4Kids to the chapters and SIGs of PMI. PMIEF has provided links to the PM4Kids website and has elevated the visibility level of PM4Kids throughout the PMI global community. In addition, PM4Kids has several heavily dedicated volunteers from the Rochester, New York PMI chapter who have come together to deliver this program to those who request it. These volunteers have contributed a great deal to the development of the packages and collaterals that were created for this endeavor. The current active board of PM4Life consists of John Appleman, Patricia Habben, Tom Cannan, Kathleen J. Brady, Kate Finke, Mike Batz, Karen Mc-Clure, Nora Garza, Kevin Maier, David Johnston, and Edithe Drewery-Brown. The Rochester Chapter of PMI has provided significant support in terms of volunteers, access to chapter membership, venues, and publicity. Eastman Kodak Company of Rochester, New York provides the meeting location. Jocelyn Basley, of the Rochester City School District, provided access to the Rochester City Schools.

How Can You Help?

PM4Kids is always seeking more volunteers who may wish to participate in workshop delivery, curriculum design or assist with the fundraising efforts. In addition, establishment of PM4Kids workshop delivery groups in PMI local chapters is essential to the success and growth of the program going forward. A call or email to PM4Kids representatives can assist chapters with the initiation of PM4Kids workshops throughout the world.

To facilitate workshop delivery a kit has been developed that can be used during the workshop and left at the school for future reference and use by the students. We strongly recommend that volunteers engage the school and remain in contact with the students or workshop class. For example, if the students will be engaged in a project, the PMI workshop volunteers could make arrangements with the instructor to visit the classroom two to three times during the project. The first visit would be to assist the students in establishing the project using project management practices and techniques. The second visit would be to audit the process to see who the students are using the project management practices and techniques to deliver their project work and the third would be to assess the outcome and how well the students grasped the concepts and used project management to deliver their completed projects. The kit consists of one instructor guide, 24 student guides, a learning mat, and four sets of question cards. The materials are consumable and left in the classroom for students to use as reference. In addition to these materials grade-level specific curriculums in project management, rubrics, student surveys and classroom and external exercises and tests can be made available.

PM4Life is constantly receiving testimonials and feedback regarding the program form teachers and students who participate in the program. One such testimonial was recently received from Cheryl Ryer-Fredrick, third grade teacher at Kirk Road Elementary School in Rochester, New York. She states, “The program had a positive impact on the students…I think it gave them strategies for planning long-term projects. It is especially relevant if a classroom teacher is about to assign a project. Follow up after the project could be a highly productive activity. A number of parents commented on the booklets received by the students and thought it was a fine program.” PM4Life also has several testimonials from students who have attended the workshops and will be putting digital pictures on the website soon if anyone wishes to view them. PM4Life also has videotapes of the workshops that can be used for training purposes. PM4Life is currently discussing holding train the trainer session in Rochester, New York for those who wish to learn to become certified PM4Kids workshop coaches, organizers, and facilitators. Interested individuals may discuss this with the local chapter president or SIG and contact PM4Kids for more details. The best way to learn to conduct or coach a PM4Kids workshop is to attend one and participate. PM4Life will post a list of upcoming workshop schedules for anyone who is interested in attending.

PM 4 Kids Study

PM4Life Inc., in conjunction with PMIEF will sponsor a study using a PM 4 Kids curriculum. The purpose of this study will be to determine whether use of the concepts, practices, and techniques of project management by students will increase their academic performance. A predefined set of rubrics will be used and analyzed against student performance data to assess the outcome. This program requires the building and delivery of a curriculum that teaches seven of the nine knowledge areas of project management. Testing, rubrics, and other mechanisms are used to deliver this subject matter in the classroom. This takes more up-front planning and negotiation with the schools.

A control group of students, parents, teachers, administrators and analysts will be involved in the completion of this study. PM4Life Inc. will train the parents, students, school administrators, and district analysts in the concepts and principles of project management as they relate to academic performance and completion of assignments. The students will be coached and mentored on the concepts of project management and how to apply these concepts to their daily schoolwork activities. The teachers and parents will be involved to ensure consistency in the delivery of the coaching and mentoring to the students.

At the end of each quarter the student's performance will be measured against the set of predefined rubrics by the school district analysts and a report will be generated, which the team will review. The student's performance will be monitored and tracked by the PM4Life Inc. mentor and the teacher involved in the study group. The quarterly results will be communicated to the project team, to the principal, the district and the PMI sponsor. The end of project results will also be presented to PMIEF and other PMI chapters for implementation in other cities.


The PM4Kids Website is currently available for visits by individuals interested in participating in the PM4Kids program or seeking to establish a PM4Kids program in a local chapter area. The purpose of this website will be to facilitate communications between parents, students, teachers, school, and district administrators, and to provide information regarding upcoming events for PM4Life, such as training sessions, PM4Kids workshops, and materials availability and acquisition. TCN, a local Rochester technology services company provided and hosts the website.


The goal of PM4Kids program is to make available the concepts, techniques, practices, and terminology of project management to those who would not normally be exposed to it. If students are taught project management at an early age the techniques will potentially become part of their overall manner and method of study. PM4Kids believes that students exposed to project management at an early age will benefit from its use not only while they are in school but also throughout their lives. Companies will benefit from this ingrained knowledge and experience as their new employees enter the workplace prepared to take on the challenges and demands of projects and capable of being more productive in shorter periods of time. This will result is lower costs to employers in the long run as projects are delivered successfully and learning curve costs are decreased.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
October 3–10, 2002 • San Antonio, Texas, USA



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