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Project-Based Learning

Developing passionate learners

Dock's new Middle School curriculum develops students who love to learn by applying the skills taught in school to real-world situations. Let the learning adventures begin!

21st century skills

"These are great life skills that students are learning—skills that will help them in virtually every area of their lives later on."

—Middle School Innovation Class Teacher Mrs. Cheryl Ryder

Why Project-Based Learning?

Read a short article from the Spring 2019 Lamplighter about the rationale behind Project-Based Learning.

Project-Based Learning


This creative video (above) was produced by Dock Middle School students Savannah Sobetsky and Caitlin May as part of a project-based learning assignment. You can see other project-based learning examples below.

Tiny Houses

Arcade Games

Roller Coasters

Spanish Immersion



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.

PBL By The Numbers


Percentage of graduates who attend college

Others take a gap year for service or enter the workforce


Percentage of Faculty with Advanced Degrees

Dock strives to develop a life-long love of learning—and our faculty lead the way.


Faculty to Student Ratio

Class sizes offer opportunities for quality teacher-student interaction and individual attention


countries represented

A global perspective is a strength of the Dock experience


Percentage of students who participate in a co-curricular activity

From athletics to music to drama to robotics and more, students have rich opportunities beyond the classroom


Percentage of students annually who take and pass at least one AP Exam

Our faculty encourage students to stretch themselves to reach their full potential

Learning That Inspires

quotes from students

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quotes from students

Sociis nato que penatibus et magnis dis partur ient mon tes nac etur ridiculus mus.

quotes from teachers

Sociis nato que penatibus et magnis dis partur ient mon tes nac etur ridiculus mus.