Interior Image Slideshow

Project-Based Learning

 

Learning gets personal

 

 

A growing body of research says students are better prepared for college, and for life,

when they are invested in hands-on, experiential learning.

That trend is already having a significant impact on Dock classrooms.

 

Read about experiential learning in the Spring 2019 Lamplighter

Innovation Class

Innovation Class is just one of the ways students learn experientially at

Dock's EC to Grade 8 Campus.

It's a cold winter afternoon, but inside Mrs. Jayne Longacre's Innovation class, 8th grader Simon Hershberger is just getting warmed up. He is presenting a product idea to his classmates, and you sense immediately that Simon believes his product can make an impact on people's lives. After all, that was the class assignment.

He calls his idea The Firefly, and it is a survival kit, of sorts, for hikers and other adventurers. But instead of first aid items or waterproof matches, his kit contains....a small drone. The drone can be deployed in the event someone gets lost or injured in the wilderness, and it will relay information to a host, which will then contact first responders with an array of information:

  • GPS coordinates relaying the victim's exact location
  • Photos of the surrounding area, to give first responders additional visual cues to guide them to the victim
  • Health and medical data, even a psychological profile, to give first responders a "head start" in treating injuries

In addition to hikers, boat owners and the military are also potential customers for The Firefly, Simon explains, and it can also help reduce trauma for family and friends who, in some circumstances, may wonder whether their loved ones are alive or dead.

The questions from his classmates are nearly as interesting as Simon's presentation. Is the kit waterproof? Will it float? Given the short battery life of drones, did he consider a dirigible alternative? Someone asks about the cost, and Simon said the kit's pricetag could be as high as $200. "But remember," he says, wrapping up his presentation, "this could save your life."

Working on Tiny House designs

Arcade game projects with an authentic audience

"The more that curriculum dictates what students learn, the less room there is for students' curiosity. We don't leave enough room in the curriculum to explore those areas."

Dr. Sharon Fransen, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction

 

Innovation Class

Course Description

Research is clear that when we give students choice and purpose in their learning, they experience energy, creativity, and curiosity, as well as growth in college and career skills. This course will provide students with hands-on learning that promotes higher-level thinking through real-life problems and authentic interactions with experts outside of the classroom. Students will learn through brainstorming, modeling, researching, designing, creating, collaborating, making mistakes, and reflecting.

General Objectives

  1. Encourage genuine question- and problem-posing
  2. Develop and deepen empathy for others
  3. Foster creative thinking, imagination and problem-solving
  4. Build stamina for sustained inquiry
  5. Promote maker/inventor/creator identities

Course Content

  1. Divergent thinking mini design challenge
  2. Tiny House design challenge
  3. Individual or small group passion projects
  4. Whole class project based on authentic needs and interests

What is project-based learning?

Following Dock's reaccreditation visit last spring, we were asked to formalize our curriculum model with “instructional strategies informed by best practices and research (i.e. project-based learning, problem-solving, collaboration, innovation, creativity, and technology infusion)”.   

As part of that work, we are implementing more Project-Based Learning (PBL) at Dock. PBL units start with a challenging question or problem and include sustained inquiry, critique and revision, student choice and reflection, and a product shared with an authentic audience.  This method of teaching and learning helps students across the grades learn and be prepared for the future. Regardless of profession, most of what any of us do in our jobs is project- and problem-oriented as we work with others to solve problems and move ideas forward.  These projects require teamwork, research, creativity, asking questions, taking risks, failing, and trying again.  All of these elements are a part of PBL.

Why use PBL?  

Research shows that well-designed projects motivate students to gain knowledge and remember it in meaningful ways.  Projects give students the chance to apply the skills they learn in school to relevant, real-world situations.  Students also learn skills such as how to think deeply, solve problems, work in teams, and make presentations.  These skills will help students succeed in the future, both in school and in their careers.  

How are students assessed?

In project-based learning, students are generally assessed on their content knowledge, collaboration skills, and presentation skills.  A rubric may be used to guide the creation of the projects and for grading.  Evidence may be required and graded at points during the process to ensure that students are progressing in their mastery.

Does PBL prepare students for the next level of schooling (MS? HS? College?) and how do students learning with this model do on standardized tests?

Research shows that students at schools that focus on PBL generally achieve higher scores on standardized tests and report higher levels of collaboration skills, academic engagement, motivation to learn, and self-efficacy.  Having more ownership and responsibility for their learning better prepares students for the next level of education.

What are current examples of PBL at Dock?

This fall, third graders created a ‘field trip’ experience for kindergarteners to learn about local Native Americans by using QR codes and creating activities for our school nature trail.  Middle school students in Innovation class built prototypes of tiny houses and arcade games while talking to experts and pitching their ideas to interested buyers.  In the spring, eighth-grade students will learn about World War II, create projects, and have a public evening showcasing their work.  At the high school, health students made their own energy bars and used fellow students as taste testers while sharing what they learned about the nutritional value of bars on the market.  And students in Personal Finance met real clients, wrote financial plans based on the individual goals, and shared the plans in face-to-face meetings with the clients.What does homework look like?  

PBL does not focus on worksheets or memorizing facts.  As the focus is on the processes of learning including deep thinking about topics and working together, more of the work happens at school than in some traditional programs.  Homework with PBL might be independent reading and research related to the project,

How can you help your child?

One way to help your child with this kind of learning is to discuss a project at home, encouraging your child to think deeply and ask questions about the topic.  You can also support a project by providing expertise, supplies, or resources.

PBL taps into students’ curiosity and creativity.  It fosters communication and collaboration skill development.  It encourages students to be compassionate and critical thinkers.  Coupled with our faith perspective, it additionally calls students to empathy and service to others.

Following our accreditation visit last spring, we were asked to formalize our curriculum model with “instructional strategies informed by best practices and research (i.e. project-based learning, problem-solving, collaboration, innovation, creativity, and technology infusion)”.   

As part of that work, we are implementing more Project-Based Learning (PBL) at Dock. PBL units start with a challenging question or problem and include sustained inquiry, critique and revision, student choice and reflection, and a product shared with an authentic audience.  This method of teaching and learning helps students across the grades learn and be prepared for the future. Regardless of profession, most of what any of us do in our jobs is project- and problem-oriented as we work with others to solve problems and move ideas forward.  These projects require teamwork, research, creativity, asking questions, taking risks, failing, and trying again.  All of these elements are a part of PBL.

Why use PBL?  

Research shows that well-designed projects motivate students to gain knowledge and remember it in meaningful ways.  Projects give students the chance to apply the skills they learn in school to relevant, real-world situations.  Students also learn skills such as how to think deeply, solve problems, work in teams, and make presentations.  These skills will help students succeed in the future, both in school and in their careers.  

How are students assessed?

In project-based learning, students are generally assessed on their content knowledge, collaboration skills, and presentation skills.  A rubric may be used to guide the creation of the projects and for grading.  Evidence may be required and graded at points during the process to ensure that students are progressing in their mastery.

Does PBL prepare students for the next level of schooling (MS?  HS?  College?) and how do students learning with this model do on standardized tests?

Research shows that students at schools that focus on PBL generally achieve higher scores on standardized tests and report higher levels of collaboration skills, academic engagement, motivation to learn, and self-efficacy.  Having more ownership and responsibility for their learning better prepares students for the next level of education.

What are current examples of PBL at Dock?

This fall, third graders created a ‘field trip’ experience for kindergarteners to learn about local Native Americans by using QR codes and creating activities for our school nature trail.  Middle school students in Innovation class built prototypes of tiny houses and arcade games while talking to experts and pitching their ideas to interested buyers.  In the spring, eighth-grade students will learn about World War II, create projects, and have a public evening showcasing their work.  At the high school, health students made their own energy bars and used fellow students as taste testers while sharing what they learned about the nutritional value of bars on the market.  And students in Personal Finance met real clients, wrote financial plans based on the individual goals, and shared the plans in face-to-face meetings with the clients.


What does homework look like?  

PBL does not focus on worksheets or memorizing facts.  As the focus is on the processes of learning including deep thinking about topics and working together, more of the work happens at school than in some traditional programs.  Homework with PBL might be independent reading and research related to the project,

How can you help your child?

One way to help your child with this kind of learning is to discuss a project at home, encouraging your child to think deeply and ask questions about the topic.  You can also support a project by providing expertise, supplies, or resources.

PBL taps into students’ curiosity and creativity.  It fosters communication and collaboration skill development.  It encourages students to be compassionate and critical thinkers.  Coupled with our faith perspective, it additionally calls students to empathy and service to others.