Students and teachers at Hardin County schools are applying a new approach that puts power in the hands of students while engaging the community.
Danielle Vincent is a sixth grade English teacher at Bluegrass Middle School. Vincent, along with the other sixth grade English teacher, Chris Sexton, worked on the first project-based learning project this school year.
Training was provided during the summer for the PBL approach with the district in partnership with New Tech Network. Bluegrass’s sixth-grade class is now in the first year of a three-year project to infuse PBL into the school and receive mentoring during the school year.
Brandy New, Director of Innovation for HCS, said in an email that the PBL approach “creates deeper learning by making connections between content areas and providing students with authentic community-based tasks. “.
Vincent said they had spoken this summer that one of the goals of the project was to give students an authentic audience outside of school.
She said since immersing herself in it this school year, she has seen how it benefits her students through her sense of exploration, as it puts learning in students’ hands and gives them more. to be able to.
“I was able to see the conversations they had between them and their collaboration. And I was able to sort of see how the learning became more authentic because they are applying it in their own way, ”said Vincent.
Vincent also said that these projects are designed in a reserved way where they start with the end in mind and work in reverse. She said the project is integrated throughout a unit.
For Vincent’s class, they are teaming up with the Hardin County Public Library on a project where they develop an anthology of stories and poems. Students were introduced to the project through a video produced by the library after it approached HCPL.
Groups wrote a story based on a theme, then moved on to poetry where they learn the process of writing a poem, then groups write one based on the same theme.
From there, students prepare a presentation using evidence from their own work to explain how the two pieces relate to the theme.
John Wittenback works at the library and conducts outreach activities for it. He attended the final presentations of the students of Bluegrass. He was previously an English teacher at the school.
Wittenback said it’s important to provide this type of audience for young students because there will be times when people will read their writing outside of the classroom and know why they are doing it.
“It gives them more motivation to do well if they understand why they are doing it and how it will benefit them in the future,” he said.
The end goal is to bring all the projects together for display in the public library, tracing back to that authentic audience and community connection.
Vincent also mentioned the sixth grade science classes working on a large project with germs, swabbing different areas of the school to collect samples.
She said she saw the students build their confidence over the year through collaboration and communication skills. She said it was necessary, especially as these skills stagnated due to non-traditional education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I saw a lot of confidence building, which was interesting. When we first started the project, there were a lot of students who weren’t sure if they were going to be able to do it, ”she said.
“There are a few bumps along the way, so hopefully as we progress through the year and complete more projects, I’ll see those skills develop even more to the point where their confidence will be even higher, ”she said. added.