In this week’s ASCD Smart Brief, an article from the Tennessean is given national attention: Dupont-Hadley of Metro Nashville Public Schools was recognized for a project based learning unit where 5th graders studied cancer: “Student’s two-time cancer survival inspires lessons.” The experiences of one student was a catalyst for extensive work by the entire 5th grade. The topic had a personal connection that made the interdisciplinary concepts and skills relevant.
There are some amazing points that the article does not tell…
1. First PBL unit of the year with a real world partner
In their first project ever, the staff used an instructional model that ensures standards-based learning and Global Competencies (aka 21st Century), that enabled their students to have authentic learning experience that included a partner (Hospital) from outside of the school building. The staff followed a PBL format from training and systemic support by the Buck Institute for Education. The temptation is to play it safe and implement a project that stays inside the classroom. The 5th grade team hit a home run on their first project of the year. They involved the hospital into the project so that the students saw that they were working with real people beyond school, and not just a scenario. Their learning and efforts had an impact on real people. In my experience, all staffs have the capacity to do this on their first project, and some do. Yet many let fear of implementation stop them from moving forward with a partner or client outside of school–usually saying, “The students may not be ready for it.” At Dupont-Hadley, the students did the Cancer project and rose to the high expectations.
2. Dupont-Hadley has other grade levels doing the same
The other grade level teams have some interesting projects either implemented or in planning. The 5th grade team opens a door into the type of work that all students at Dupont-Hadley are experiencing. Having supported with the teachers as they developed their PBL designs, it’s awesome to witness their incredible thought process and commitment to ensure that the students learn standards in context with real world connections. Expect more news to come in the future about the various community connections that students are impacting with their learning.
Metro Nashville Public Schools has standards-based PBL as a system wide initiative. There are great things happening everywhere in MNPS. Stay in tune to their students’ work.