Inner Voices is back! This week we have a young man–we’ll call him Pete–who is currently a junior who participated in my project-based learning classroom both his freshman and sophomore year. Due to a need to try and sure up the program, the junior level was not offered this year, which was a blow to both Pete and others. I’ll be the first to admit though, that it was the right decision at the time. Inside today’s post you’ll read a well articulated account of Pete’s experience and what his two years in the program meant for him, but maybe more importantly, he seems to be making a much larger statement here as well. Read on to find out for yourself:
“This format of learning forces students to learn how to work with others, to learn how to self advocate, and how to be confidant in the measure of their abilities. These lessons can be harsh, but they are must have skills for working in the workforce regardless of job”
Change is terrifying. This singular truth is found evident throughout history in the actions of oppressive regimes and tyrants. Entering the same ring is High School, with tyrannical administrators and a plethora of denizens, all trying to find their place in the world. Maintaining a semblance of control over this chaos are teachers, hoping to inspire and point students in directions that allow them to grow. Most teachers attempt this feat through standing in front of a class, others on the sports field as a coach, all with different degrees of success.
One of the more unusual places in which teachers are found would be in classes with the moniker of Project Based Learning applied to them. Without a doubt, Project Based Learning not only forces teachers to actively work and guide students through their projects, but act as a mentor of sorts throughout the year. This changes the dynamic of the usual classroom, as the teacher is no longer the source of information and tests, but a guide to the solutions of problems and the directions of projects.
These projects are the most dynamic and stagnant portion of project based learning. Before the idea that you can do anything for a project truly sinks into the minds of students, many ideas are hashed and rehashed, often simply repackagings of their counterpart’s ideas. However, once this idea has sunken to a respectable depth does a group of students in Project Based Learning truly begin to soar. Students begin to push the limits of themselves and their classmates, begin to push the limits of what they can do given the constraints of their projects, the constraints of their school. Once this sunken treasure of ideas is uncovered, the projects do not often repeat themselves as they once did, but are found to be fresh and interesting, the satisfaction of being able to share a new idea, a new project having grown to be intoxicating in the students mind.
The projects are not the only thing to change on the voyage of Project Based Learning, but the students as well. This format of learning forces students to learn how to work with others, to learn how to self advocate, and how to be confidant in the measure of their abilities. These lessons can be harsh, but they are must have skills for working in the workforce regardless of job.
The lesson of self advocacy is by far the harshest of those aforementioned lessons. Many students learn this lesson early on, whether by example or through direct experience. Projects’ success rest on this singular skill, the ability to speak up about issues that are found in the student’s group.
Next, the lesson of what they can and can’t do, the knowing one’s self. This lesson, while not as harsh as the last, is one that can come to define how students think of themselves. Knowing their limits, students learn to capitalize on the skills of their peers, coming together like individual puzzle pieces to form a vibrant image of success.
Entering Project Based Learning has probably been the best decision of my high school career. The ability to take pride in what I make and do in school has translated from Project Based Learning to many of my classes. Now when I undertake any project for school, I try and create my own spin on it, to make it unique. To aid in these projects are the various skills that I have learned from the Studio: public speaking, how to create a presentation, leadership skills, understanding of how a team dynamic functions, etc. These are skills that are not as accessibly learned in a normal classroom setting, and I doubt that I would have learned some of these skills if I was in a traditional classroom setting. One of the highest points of my high school journey would be project based learning, the Studio, students aren’t just taught, but experience what they learn.