It was a typical monthly staff meeting when we were asked to reflect on a valuable question: “What are schools for?”
As a teacher, I felt like I should have a quick answer like “Schools are to prepare students for college, career, and life.” Or maybe something more simple, “Schools are to improve student learning.” Instead, we were challenged to think more deeply about how we can encourage in-depth thinking in an authentic way in addition to building student knowledge and skills.
As a school, we are drawn to Project Based Learning (PBL) as it promotes this deeper thinking in an effective and engaging way! Project Based Learning revolves around an interesting question, problem, or challenge and students are often able to connect with the real world and their community as they work to investigate and respond. One example of PBL at Hillside Academy is our school-wide Giving Project. Preschool through 8th grade classes complete a variety of community service projects guided by the PBL teaching model.
“Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
The Giving Project is unique. While most classes work on different projects, we work together as a school to make our community a better place. Each project has a driving question which focuses on student learning goals, inquiry, and student voice/choice. Classes complete an authentic task as they work directly in the community. The reflection and revision process allows students and teachers to assess the outcome of their project and any challenges they had. Students were able to come together as a school at the Hillsides community Expo where they presented their project work to the public. The Expo is a wonderful opportunity for students to reflect on the difference they made as an individual, as a class, and as a school in their community.
For more information on Project Based Learning visit: www.bie.org
– Mrs. Meghan