Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Project Based Learning Expedition!!!

Here is the Journey we went on to bring high-quality Project Based Learning to Indian River County.

PBL – Day One

“You’re joining a movement of educators who realize the world is changing dramatically, it’s complex and our schools have not kept up.  This PBL format helps our students learn to collaborate, communicate, create agency, and get creative.”
-Bob Lens

Our day began with an incredible opening by Bob Lens, Executive Director of the Buck Institute for Education.  With over 1200 educators present and more than 400 on the waiting list, it’s clear that this movement is something that might have begun as a grassroots mission but now has momentum growing and will only continue to expand.  This organization prides itself on the research based strategies and data driven processes to help students make meaningful connections through a real-world application format.  Kristin De Vivo, Executive Director of the Lucas Education Research program showcased the edutopia video that will be released that shows the result of a field test that followed low-income, under-performing schools who have implemented the PBL Buck Institute model with rigorous academic standards.  What was evident was that deep meaningful work can be done through this process.

The keynote speaker was an incredibly inspiring UC Berkely graduate, Yvonne Armenta, who explained how going through the process as a learner has given her the tools to success for college and life. 

Design Question for Day One:
How can we plan effective projects for our students?

Guided through our presentation by Katrina Martinez, we spent our first day jumping into PBL by teams designing a project utilizing the Buck Institute Model.

Our team spent time brainstorming what an ideal graduate would look like and what burning questions we need answered by the end of our professional development in order to implement Project Based Learning.  We spent time looking at the Project Launch, The PB Teaching Practices through the Gold Standard PBL along with the essential project design elements.  The intensive rubric required to go through the design process will lead to a cumulative result.  Having a PBL project wall is one way to hold the team accountable for the driving forces..

“The belief that all genuine education comes about though experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative”
                                                                -John Dewey

There are 8 essential elements required with the BIE Gold Standard Model;
1.       Key knowledge, understanding, and success skills
2.       Challenging problem or question
3.       Sustained Inquiry
4.       Authenticity
5.       Student voice and choice
6.       Reflection
7.       Critique and revision
8.       Public Product

Standards are our biggest focus.  This is how we are held accountable.

The Vero Beach Elementary team decided to expand on our “Dreaming Up” unit.  Our students will be exploring engineering and architecture through a school-wide unit planned by our Unit Team.  The PBL academy will be exploring further by doing research utilizing scientific exploration.  Our 5th grade class will explore chromatics, interior design, aromatherapy, and psychology to create a proposal, budget, and design for a "zen zone" at Vero Beach Elementary.  Our 2nd grade students will look at school wide data trends and do research on interior design elements and chromotherapy to create a learning environment with the conditions that are best for students to focus based on a targeted area for support.

PBL- Day Two
Today our groups focused on the work that needs to be done to create high-quality assessments to monitor learning through our PBL models.  Each team was required to design a project that included a driving question, project idea, the standards and content that will be covered and assessed, the products that will be created, along with how our students will “make it public.”

Our teams were given a specific PBL rubric to give feedback to the other creators in the form of “I wonder” and “I like.”  By giving an incredibly specific format for feedback, we could help each other grow in our pedagogy and deepen our understanding of PBL.

What I found the most interesting is that the focus of PBL is to ensure that the key knowledge, understanding, and success skills are what the entire foundation of the project should be set from.  The standards are what drives the project, not the other way around.  This will allow our PBL academy to keep on track with or district and state monitoring of standards.  None of this will be done in isolation of the requirements our students will need to move forward and show growth with learning targets and standards.  The rubrics that are part of the Buck Institute model not only hit on the hard skills, but the soft skills/success skills that are sometimes void in educational practices today.  Collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-management are required elements in this model for project based learning.  Just as we are teaching the math and ELA standards that may be part of the project, we must also take the time to deliberately teach these skills as well.

Day Three:
Managing Projects

Our teams dived in today.  We spent time refining and critiquing our projects in the early morning. We then were split into diverse groups of 4 and had time to do a "tuning protocol" to assist the other PBL teams to reflect, tweak, and grow.  Our groups picked up some incredibly designed projects with specific ideas that we used to enhance our units, including adding a ribbon cutting ceremony, adding in student surveys, and utilizing some web based resources for the design elements of the space.  The time to discuss with the teams can not be undervalued, we truly learn best when we are open to feedback and willing to adapt to other's ideas.

All 1200 participants were then brought into the gym to hear an inspiring message from PBL Champion, Carlos Moreno.  His message about his own learning experiences, personal tragedies, and hope for the future showed us the relevance of embedding project based learning into our school systems.   We ended our day by coming directly back to the room to work through our lunch.  We were inspired and ready to finish the planning.  Utilizing a protocol we were able to hone in on how to plan out the project utilizing a project calendar to keep the teams accountable, organized, and standards centered.

The overall experience showed us that you can absolutely create an extremely accountable standards driven environment that focuses on real world application.  Our 2nd grade and 5th grade project based learning academy can not wait to begin implementing our projects!

Creating these powerful PBL experiences is not only going to motivate our Tribe but that momentum is going to propel us "up" to new student achievement accomplishments

Coming directly from the Buck Institute-

Why Project Based Learning (PBL)?

Project Based Learning’s time has come. The experience of thousands of teachers across all grade levels and subject areas, backed by research, confirms that PBL is an effective and enjoyable way to learn - and develop deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career, and civic life. Why are so many educators across the United States and around the world interested in this teaching method? The answer is a combination of timeless reasons and recent developments.
  • PBL makes school more engaging for students. Today’s students, more than ever, often find school to be boring and meaningless. In PBL, students are active, not passive; a project engages their hearts and minds, and provides real-world relevance for learning.
  • PBL improves learning. After completing a project, students understand content more deeply, remember what they learn and retain it longer than is often the case with traditional instruction. Because of this, students who gain content knowledge with PBL are better able to apply what they know and can do to new situations.
  • PBL builds success skills for college, career, and life. In the 21st century workplace and in college, success requires more than basic knowledge and skills. In a project, students learn how to take initiative and responsibility, build their confidence, solve problems, work in teams, communicate ideas, and manage themselves more effectively.
  • PBL helps address standards. The Common Core and other present-day standards emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, and the development of success skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, communication in a variety of media, and speaking and presentation skills. PBL is an effective way to meet these goals.
  • PBL provides opportunities for students to use technology. Students are familiar with and enjoy using a variety of tech tools that are a perfect fit with PBL. With technology, teachers and students can not only find resources and information and create products, but also collaborate more effectively, and connect with experts, partners, and audiences around the world.
  • PBL makes teaching more enjoyable and rewarding. Projects allow teachers to work more closely with active, engaged students doing high-quality, meaningful work, and in many cases to rediscover the joy of learning alongside their students.
  • PBL connects students and schools with communities and the real world. Projects enable students to solve problems and address issues important to them, their communities, and the world. Students learn how to interact with adults and organizations, are exposed to workplaces and adult jobs, and can develop career interests. Parents and community members can be involved in projects.
  • PBL promotes educational equity. All students deserve PBL, since a great project can have a powerful effect and help them reach their potential, and even be transformative for young people. A project that makes a real-world impact can give students a sense of agency and purpose; they see that they can make a difference in their community and the world beyond it.

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