Teachers and administrators with Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) participated in a “Project Based Learning (PBL) Plunge” at the central office Tuesday as part of continued training and efforts for the students within the school district.
The Record-Herald joined WCHCS as part of an expert panel which consisted of one reporter and three school administrators — superintendent Tom Bailey, maintenance director Mike Skaggs and director of marketing and communication Trevor Patton — to help the teachers involved learn the PBL process. Several hours earlier about a dozen participants were divided into three groups to work on presentations with a problem to solve: what is an under-utilized space within the school district that could be theoretically redesigned?
According to PBL Matters (pblmatters.org) Consultant Jill Simpson, the groups had to keep in mind three important aspects of their redesign; the social and emotional impact, the environmental impact and ensuring the space has flexibility in its use all the while keeping within a $6,000 budget. The three groups decided to “redesign” three different spaces in the district; one at Cherry Hill Primary, one at Belle Aire Intermediate, and one at the Washington Middle School.
The redesigns — though different — all continued to keep students and learning as the central focus. A big trend for all the projects was consideration of many types of learners from groups to individuals and from auditory to visual. The groups also tackled other important aspects such as unique spacing for seating to newer technology that helps aid teaching, or learning to the color of the walls and the importance of adhering to strict fire and building codes.
Another important aspect was ensuring that the space could see use from a variety of classes and clubs. Though all the spaces were relatively small, the groups explained great ways to improve upon the existing rooms being under-utilized to show they could have a great impact on student learning as well as help to build relationships of students who do use the spaces.
Overall, the teachers understood the prompt and learned of some of the struggles with putting together a project like this, which should help transfer these type of PBL projects into the classroom, though the students would receive much closer to three weeks for a project similar to this one.
“We have a core group of teachers and administrators who are part of the SOAR network — that is part of Battelle — and through the SOAR Network we are talking about how to prepare students with 21st century skills and for a future that is ever-changing,” Dianna Wayne, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, PK-5, said following the event Tuesday. “We need them to be critical thinkers. One way of doing this is through a lot of PBL, which is project based learning. So (we ask the question) how do we incorporate our standards into authentic, problem based learning for them so that they are learning but are also very engaged. That is the exciting piece of it. This experience was our simulation of what it would be like for a student. So there were actual standards that we met through this process. There was financial literacy standards, reading standards and more that we had to incorporate or at least use our knowledge of to complete this project. Plus all of the collaboration that went on. There is also no ceiling for our learning, there were a lot of the possibilities and creativity in trying to solve the problem.”
Wayne continued by saying superintendent Bailey has been instrumental in moving the district forward by challenging the staff as educators to continue to get out there and learn to ensure they are doing what is best for the students.
“I want to applaud Washington Court House City Schools for bringing in this idea of providing what is best in terms of education for their students because that is really what this is about,” Simpson said following the presentations. “This is very forward thinking and you can tell that these teachers and administrators have what is best for the kids in the forefront. This is my first visit here and I am really impressed. I had to stop and tell the administrators these teachers are working hard.”
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.