When we began developing the mission and vision for our school around 2011, we used the High Tech High (HTH) model to help guide our development. We wanted to emulate the exciting and motivating school environment that HTH has created for its students and teachers.
A Chinese proverb says: “Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.” The effectiveness of hands-on learning is undeniable. Project-Based Learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curricular skills while working in small collaborative groups.
Because Project-Based Learning is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they are studying. Research also indicates that students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach far better than through traditional textbook-centered learning. In addition, students develop confidence and self-direction as they move through both team-based and independent work.
In the process of completing their projects, students hone their organizational and research skills, develop better communication with their peers and adults, and often work within their community to see the positive effect of their work.
Because students are evaluated on the basis of their projects, rather than on the comparatively narrow rubrics defined by exams, essays, and written reports, assessment of project based work is often more meaningful to them. They see how academic work can connect to real-life issues — and may even be inspired to pursue a career or engage in activism that relates to the project they developed.
As high school teacher teams develop projects that engage student interests, they are mindful of content standards for grades 9 through 12. For example, a chemistry teacher may have each student create a documentary about the harmful effect of illicit drugs on the human body. The unit addresses many standards in chemistry, such as functional groups, bonding, periodic table, and molecular structures. At the same time, the project integrates well with math and humanities and achieves real world relevance as students use technology to create educational videos that can be shared with other schools as part of a broader drug and alcohol abuse prevention initiative.
Throughout our school, our students engage in real-world projects that enable them to learn while working on problems of interest and concern to the larger community. Our school is a very cool place for children to learn!