School students engaged in a Lego project for a recent
project-based learning initiative.
Project-based learning gets uptake amongst OACS members
Educators see opportunity for improved learning through active and engaged approach
From fashioning a Lego robot at Heritage
Community Christian School to sounding
a wake-up call on environmental issues at Ottawa
Christian School, educators
and students in the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) membership are
increasingly trying their hand at an approach called project-based learning.
Project-based learning involves students exploring real-world problems and challenges,
including possible solutions to those challenges. In the case of the Lego robotics
project, students were aiming to construct a robot that could help seniors with
The approach is hands-on, largely student-directed, and involves the
creation of something that demonstrates what students have learned to more than
just the teacher. At Ottawa Christian School, students designed websites and
pamphlets and organized an eco fair, all with the intent of sharing their learning
with the broader community.
Project-based learning has been shown to increase academic results, as well as
students’ ability to understand, apply and retain information, according
to an introduction on the approach by the George Lucas Education Foundation.
It has also been shown to boost critical thinking, communication and collaboration
Students have demonstrated increased motivation and engagement in learning, the
OACS members are anecdotally also reporting such outcomes.
Community Christian School teacher Wilma Vanderkloet says she was most
inspired to see her students increase their collaborative skills through their
engagement on the Lego robotic project.
Christian School teacher Laurence Stassen says his students were more
motivated to learn.
“With traditional learning, what I often get from kids is, ‘Why do
we have to know this?’ and I didn’t get that once through this whole
enterprise; it was very refreshing,” he says.
The Ottawa Christian School students also spoke of being moved to make changes
in their lives as a result of learning about environmental concerns.
High Tech High is a complex of schools in San Diego that has been at the vanguard
of introducing project-based learning.
OACS member representatives have visited the forward-edge education system in
past years to learn and observe. In January, 35
OACS representatives visited the schools as a group.
“I saw at High Tech High an approach to schools, to learning and to education
that is profoundly honouring of students,” says OACS learning consultant
Gary VanArragon, reflecting on what excited him most about the possibilities
he saw in the High Tech High environment for OACS members.
“The beauty of the system, and that was the most exciting part, is
that it really does engage teachers and students together in seeking the best
possible approach to learning.”
District Christian High (HDCH) school principal Nathan Siebenga, who
has visited High Tech High before and did so again this year says
convinced it isn’t so much what’s taught as how it’s taught
that changes classrooms and students.
“That’s what you see at High Tech High,” he says. “They
don’t have reams and reams of paper and binders delivering curriculum.
“They have teachers engaged with students in developing projects together.
“I think that’s an important shift for us in Ontario to make, and
at HDCH we’re moving in that direction as well, (that is), away from the
idea of curriculum is a binder to curriculum is life and life is about learning.”
Further conversation, exploration and collaboration is planned in order to expand
and deepen the application of project-based learning in OACS schools.
A three-day workshop facilitated by California’s Buck Institute for Education
to better understand project-based learning is being offered by the Christian
teachers’ association Edifide this summer.
HDCH is also hosting a hands-on workshop this year on how to do project-based
learning and create the kind of instructional environment seen at High Tech High
that is appropriate to OACS members.
Click here to watch a video on project-based learning.
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