by Jillianne Steelman
This year, the Middle School transitioned from a Personalized Learning Plans to Project Based Learning. Project Based Learning (PBL) is a content driven guided inquiry leading to a culminating project. Personalized Learning Plans/Project Based Learning is outlined in the Unity Charter School Charter, meets the core standards for 21st century skills, and addresses standards in the content areas.
Teachers of Language Arts, Science and Social Studies each used their Core Content Standards to develop an overarching question around which they based their inquiry process. Each learning group has been afforded two periods a week to focus on Project Based Learning. In those ninety minutes a week, teachers have the opportunity to teach skill based mini lessons and content driven lessons as well as provide students with time to engage in individualized and group work which will eventually result in a culminating project.
The New Jersey Department of Education defines Project Based Learning as “a teacher-guided learning activity designed to assist students in understanding self as the curriculum/lesson relates to the following:
- (1) Applying self as a learner to the situation;
- (2) Framing questions;
- (3) Tackling a project;
- (4) Working as part of a team;
- (5) Monitoring individual programs;
- (6) Selecting a career; and
- (7) Developing his/her skills and knowledge in order to be successful in a career choice.”
This year, students will work with their learning group teachers to explore questions developed around content area. Students will have the opportunity to explore the following questions over the course of the year:
- 1. How can we communicate the greatness of our school community to our local community? (Teresa, Language Arts)
- 2. If you could choose to be a child in any historical period (that we are studying), which period would you choose and why? (Karen, Social Studies)
- 3. How can we market a healthy snack? (Marie, Science)
- 4. What impact does an invasive species have on an ecosystem? (Chris, Fifth Grade)
It is through the lens of the inquiry question that teachers create the skill based mini-lessons which create a framework of study students use to navigate the project. Nearly two months into school, projects are beginning to develop around the content-based inquiry questions. We are seeing amazing thinking beginning to develop such as:
- -Developing a class blog highlighting the unique aspects of our school
- -Imaging life as a 12 -year old in ancient Greece
- -Creation of a healthy snack for Unity students and how to market it to them
- -Determine how can we humanely build a trap and relocate an invasive species back to their natural environment
We hope you will join us at the celebrations of learning where we will present our culminating projects at the end of each trimester.