Wednesday, February 17, 2010

lots of things happening

well, it has obviously been a while since i have posted here. thought i might get back at it. lots of things have happened since my last blog. i have lots to cover but first, let me get at what has been happening the last few days.
last week we had a group from ASCD here at our school. this group was here to film our school and our students as an example of a school trying to emphasize problem based learning. here at the newton school, our students are required to complete health-science projects. the group from ASCD wanted to film the process that our students go through when working on these problems.
an example of a health-science project (so called because we are a health-science high school): Water and how it is essential to life. from here, students can relate it to climate change, disease, food production, water pollution, etc... the students get to work within the topic and relate the topic to things that they might find interesting. they have to have a driving question, they have to talk about cause and effect, it has to be meaningful and show empathy, and has to answer a host of other things that are all part of our rubric.
as i am writing this, there have already been three students come in to the office and ask for help. they need help with the focus part of the project most often. we provide them with ideas and try to challenge their assumptions. we also want them to spend time thinking about dissenting opinions and want them to prove something to us and to their peers. they will have six weeks to work on this and then will have to present their findings in front of an 'audience' of peers, parents, and teachers.
we think, and hopefully other people think, that this kind of thing might be really how we begin to change education. problem based learning projects answer some of the big questions that we deal with when we talk about educational change. does it allow students to incorporate their own interests? yep. is it individualized? yep. does it help to foster critical thinking skills? another yep. does it pertain to the curriculum? still another yep.
so the people from ASCD were here to film and ask questions and see how this whole PBL thing is done here at the newton school. they spent a couple of days walking around, talking, listening to teachers and STUDENTS, and picking our brains about the things that we do and why we do them. we enjoyed it and i hope that they got some information that they can use and pass on to others. their questions certainly got us talking and thinking.