BCHF Sponsor Update Features PTCM

BCHF Sponsor Update Features PTCM
Posted on 02/04/2019
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Buckeye Community Hope Foundation Sponsor Update - February 2019

Students embrace project- and problem-based learning

Schools across the state – and the nation – are increasingly aware of the importance of preparing students for 21st Century academic pursuits and careers, and are establishing goals aimed at developing and strengthening higher level critical thinking skills.

Constellation Schools: Puritas Community Middle is no exception. Key members of the team – Assistant Principal Debbie Piazza, Language Arts Teachers Angela Waggaman and Kim Schwartz, Instructional Coach Vicki DelaCuesta and Technology Integration Coach Mike Feldman – have developed and are implementing an effective tactic toward achieving that lofty goal: project- and problem-based learning.

It’s easy to simply recycle and deliver the same content area lesson plans each year, but these committed educators aren’t focused on what’s easy, but rather on what’s effective in terms of student engagement and development.

“The process involves using learning standards as the foundation for development of creative lesson plans for student-led projects,” Piazza explained. “Our initial attempt at project-based learning was last year with our seventh grade language arts classes, and the feedback from our students who have had the opportunity to participate has been very positive.”

So, what do the Puritas project- and problem-based learning plans look like?

Seventh-grade students were introduced to the unique challenge of being hired to manage the campaign of a mythical monster running for the highly coveted position of the first president of Olympus after the mythological Greek gods overthrow Zeus and agree to establish a democracy.

Each team of four students was challenged to research and choose a mythological monster and a political issue that would serve as the foundation of the monster’s campaign. The campaign teams were then tasked with developing posters, speeches, social media content, websites and commercials promoting their candidates.

Another project involved time travel, with students making decisions on where to go, where to stay, means of travel, activities to engage in, what foods to eat, and the financial resources needed.

One student from each group is selected as the leader, and the various tasks are assigned to individual members.

“We made a conscious decision to choose students who didn’t typically serve in leadership roles as group leaders,” Schwartz explained. “And they really stepped up!”

“The process engaged all students – from the lowest level learners to the highest,” Feldman said. “In fact, some students who have struggled academically and behaviorally have proven to be the highest performers.”

Beyond standards-based lessons, students are learning to create, analyze and apply – activities that are highly effective in terms of recall. They’re also learning how to collaborate and to be respectful of one another in expressing different opinions.

“Once the project gets underway, it’s student driven – with teachers functioning more as facilitators than as instructors,” Waggaman said.“It’s rewarding to see such high levels of engagement among all the students who participate.”

“Our focus is on achieving higher levels of activity and engagement,” Piazza added. “When we look at our data, it’s clear that some weren’t engaged enough or performing up to their full potential. We wanted to challenge all of our students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers. Project- and problem-based learning helps us improve engagement among all students and will eventually become an ongoing, building-wide initiative.”