Representatives from the Fessenden School were lucky enough to visit High Tech High in San Diego for their “Winter Residency Program.” HTH is a charter school that has immersed itself in Project Based Learning and has earned the credentials of one of the countries best when it comes to using PBL in the classroom. Looking at the pictures below you will see numerous projects adorning the hallways and classrooms throughout the school. Projects are “curated” and only when they are of “museum quality” can they be put on display. In order to achieve such beautiful projects, the process is rigorous and intense. Many of the projects are interdisciplinary with humanities teachers teaming up with physics teachers, or calculus teachers teaming up with art teachers and the like, to come with worthwhile projects that the students find both engaging and fun. When projects are completed, they are exhibited, and not always at the school.
Many of these projects connect students with real-world experts in a variety of fields, and they often find their completed work displayed in art galleries, colleges, community parks, and many other places outside HTH’s walls. These connections bring students to current workplaces so they can get the most up to date information, research, and analysis for their project. Whether the project is a typical classroom project or a major multidisciplinary project, the goal is the same: achieve deeper learning. Students, individually or in groups, work on numerous iterations of each project and document the entire process. They learn about learning, and they learn about how they learn as each project moves forward.
We were able to ask questions to a student panel who repeatedly talked about how much they learned, not only about a specific topic, but about themselves and the confidence they gained to take on any problem, big or small. As teachers, we all walked away in awe and full of inspiration, but even better, with more training and understanding about project based learning and how it can be achieved in any classroom.
Sixth graders were challenged to explore the problem “How can a picture tell a story?” Boys took photographs on their orientation trip to Crane Beach, and selected one from the group pool they felt embodied their experience that day. Boys were encouraged to play artistically with the photos using Pixlr, and wrote a descriptive essay to recount the story their photo told. View their online compilation book here.
Ninth grade English students played with GoAnimate, creating animated screenplays based on the concept of conflict and resolution.
Upper School Spanish students designed graphic novels via Pixton.
Upper School English students used Pixton to storyboard a scene from Oedipus Rex.
The Music and Media classes were given a choice of 21 pieces of art, ranging from paintings to instillations to sculpture. Using GarageBand, the boys composed a piece of music. Through numerous student-led critiques, they were able to create compositions that reflected elements of the art and contained at least one contrasting section.
Below you can see the art the boys could choose from and their accompanying tracks below the art.
GarageBand for iPad is a great way to introduce music composition to a large class while using iPads. Our Music & Media class uses GarageBand for a wide array of projects.