During the past school year and into last summer, one class at the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology at Hartford High School in Connecticut worked with a utilities expert and neighboring corporate partner United Technologies to design and build a solar-powered wind turbine that would generate electricity for a rural school in Saldang, Nepal.
A bank in Albuquerque, N.M., had a limited budget to make one of its branches more environmentally sustainable, so students at the local ACE (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) Leadership High School rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They searched websites for green design options, consulted with an engineer, and used spreadsheets to compare potential costs and energy savings.
The benefits are clear: Reading, math, and behavior have all improved. Here, Superintendent Norman Ridder, who attended the 2013 Superintendents Summit in Colorado Springs, gives us an inside look into Springfield’s project-based programs.
Five years ago, a pair of science teachers at Woodland Park (Colo.) High School turned their pedagogical approach upside down. Rather than stand up in front of the classroom, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams sent their respective students home with videos of themselves lecturing. And rather than assigning traditional homework, work that most students could get tripped up on if they are not sure about a certain topic, the teachers gave students time in class—with their close supervision and help—to put their learning into practice.
Project-based learning looks different, and may seem messier, than traditional instruction. Administrators visiting PBL classrooms shouldn’t expect to see orderly rows of students moving through the curriculum together. Instead, they’re likely to find small teams of students working on investigations of open-ended questions. Students should be able to explain what they’re doing and how activities relate to the project goals.