Introducing the Grade 8 Challenge

Kevin Berndt

How it all began

The Grade 8 Challenge is a cornerstone event of our students’ final year on Zug Campus in which they are challenged to learn new skills and understandings as they work over a period of 4 months to develop an end product. The students have complete autonomy over their area of focus, with many pursuing paths of personal passion, strength and interest that they wish to explore further. This opportunity culminates with an exhibition in the Spring of each school year. 

In December of 2020, the Grade 8 students at ISZL began the Grade 8 Challenge project. Through the development of a strong research question, they began to narrow their ideas down and they submitted their final question before the Winter Holiday. In January, the students started defining their project even further. They were provided with a mentor, chosen from the staff at ISZL. Working with their mentors, each student was tasked with creating a timeline that would help them stay on task. They also began the documentation of their process in a Process Journal. This initial stage helped them in clarifying their thoughts and providing a clearer structure to guide them. 

The process

Following on from this, the students created a research plan and a design brief, which guided them throughout the project. They completed their research by identifying and analysing similar products that exist in the market. This is a pivotal part of the design process, enabling designers to improve products that already exist. In February, once they knew exactly what other designers had done, they created a set of success criteria that provided the scaffolding for the development of their personal designs; storyboards for video projects, work flow diagrams for digital projects and orthographic and isometric drawings for physical products. With the drawings finished, analysed, and a final design completed, the students initiated the planning process. 

After the ski-break in late February the planning for the ten weeks of allocated creation time began. Using a Gantt chart and our understanding of the Scientific Method, students created a step-by-step process identifying the required materials and tools that would enable them to build their product. This is when the real fun began. After working tirelessly to put the correct structure in place, each student began working on their project. The passion for developing their ideas and creating their products was obvious, specifically when a visiting family commented on the focus and interest that the students showed when they visited our lesson. On this particular day one student was operating the laser cutter, one was 3D printing, another was bending rings and others were working on their videos, websites and other digital products. 

A successful exhibition

After ten weeks of product creation, the hard work and dedication is clearly evident through the high quality of the work that has been produced. It is important to remember that all of this happened during a pandemic, under the regulations set forth by the government and the school. As a result of these restrictions, the students had to create a digital presentation using a web product called Voicethread that enabled our whole community to enjoy their work. This added another expectation to the project that previous students did not have to meet. 

This year’s exhibition was like nothing the ISZL Middle School has ever experienced before. 

Thanks go to our amazing students whose talent, determination and ingenuity have brought about one of the strongest Grade 8 Challenges we have ever seen.

Thanks also to all of the Middle School and wider ISZL staff who have mentored the Grade 8 students through their journey.  We hope that you were able to watch the Voicethread presentations and to provide some feedback to our Grade 8’s. 


  • Grade 8 Challenge
  • Middle School

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