Project-Based Learning, Partnerships, and RTTT plans
At least four school districts are planning to implement Project Based Learning (PBL) models through their RTTT proposals, some of which will involve national and local partners.
As mentioned previously, Seaford School District is launching a “New Tech” Academy, a model of the New Tech Network, a non-profit organization with a nationally recognized program focused on delivering instruction in a collaborative setting using technology and reviving school culture. For example, at Napa New Tech High School (the birthplace of New Tech) students recently researched an ecology issue and built awareness around it using a social media site. Working in groups as a social media marketing team, students pretended they were trying to land a job with popular science magazine and wrote individual sample articles about their research and social media results. The project culminated with a formal interview where students presented their new knowledge and skills to a local media firm. For more information on New Tech in Delaware, visit Innovative Schools.
By engaging the Buck Institute for Education (BIE), Christina School District plans to improve student performance by transitioning both Partnership Zone Schools into a student-centric instructional model through PBL. This partnership is one of many in complex plans for these schools; as mentioned previously, this is an ambitious initiative to take on with the level of proficiency demonstrated by these schools in the past. For more information about the Buck Institute’s work in Delaware, visit Innovative Schools.
New Castle County Vo-Tech (NCCVT) will be the first district in the state to implement ‘Project Lead the Way’ (PLTW) in Bio-Medical courses at Howard and Delcastle next year. PLTW provides rigorous STEM education curricular programs used to middle and high schools across the country. NCCVT also plans to infuse PLTW into its Nurse Tech programs by offering professional development to four teachers this summer to develop the new curriculum. A promising three-year study of PLTW high schools in Wisconsin found that PLTW students outperformed their peers and the program closed achievement gaps among minority students, while reaching a diverse group of students and enhancing student engagement.
Colonial School District has taken a more grassroots approach to offering PBL in their plan by partnering with Delaware Greenways and The Trustees of New Castle Common to allow William Penn High School students to participate in the revitalizing of the historic Penn Farm, which is adjacent to the high school property. The Penn Farm project has the potential to involve more than 400 students in its first year through Career & Technical Education pathways, but the intent is for additional students to participate through health education and science classes.
It seems apparent that PBL is a new area of focus for Delaware school districts, most likely for its ability to prepare students for college or future careers. If implemented in concert with the numerous other initiatives underway, it has the potential to help Delaware reach our Race to the Top goals.