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Lander-Grinspoon Academy Embarks on a Week of Project Based Learning

NORTHAMPTON – This month Lander-Grinspoon Academy (LGA) embarked on a week of Project Based Learning (PBL), which encourages student “choice and voice.”

Beginning in September, the entire LGA faculty launched into the study of PBL, devoting time during faculty meetings and professional development days to develop units for this weeklong study.

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. LGA students and faculty worked collaboratively to come up with an over-arching question, “How can we make the world/our community a better place?”

LGA water plant

The second grade visited the Northampton Water Treatment Plant.

Each teaching team thought about elements of that question which spoke to them, seemed age appropriate, interesting to their students, and fit in with each class’s larger educational goals. They then developed driving questions; Kindergarten – “What is the problem with garbage and what can we do about it?” First Grade – “Why and how do people help others?” Second Grade – “How can we get water to where it is needed on Abundance Farm?” Third Grade – “How have those who have gone against gender norms impacted America and Israel?” Fourth and Fifth Grade – “How can we make our school library more diverse?” and Sixth Grade – “How can we teach others about solar energy?”

Many of the classes launched their unit with an “opening event.” The Kindergarten visited the Trash Museum in Hartford to gain a better understanding of where trash goes when it is picked up and the first grade volunteered to prepare meals for the Northampton Cot Shelter.

During the first week of March, the PBL units were front and center. While there were some “regular” classes, the bulk of the week was spent exploring resources to answer the PBL questions. LGA students were out and about in the community seeking information. The second grade visited the Northampton Water Treatment Plant. The fourth and fifth grades interviewed the director of the Southampton Public Library. Making “virtual” visits, the third grade visited the Library of Congress and the Jewish Women’s Archive. And the sixth grade participated in training, learning how to use video equipment at Northampton Community Television in preparation for a film they will be making about solar energy.

“Students will have a say in how they find the answers to their questions and what their final projects look like,” explained Deborah Bromberg Seltzer, LGA’s principal. “For example, the third grade’s final project will be creating a third grade picture book about how gender norms have changed. It will be up to the students to decide what form the book will take. Will it be a collection of short biographies? Will it be arranged by topic of how elements of life have changed for women, i.e. dress, work?” PBL provides students with opportunities for problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking.”

Another major element of PBL is allowing students to publicly share what they have learned.  Throughout the week, Lander-Grinspoon Academy posted photos and information about the PBL special activities to their Facebook page. The school hopes to have some type of presentation or expo to share the answers and solutions students arrived at through the various methods of inquiry they pursued during their PBL unit.

CAP: The Kindergarten visited the Trash Museum in Hartford to gain a better understanding of what happened to trash after it is picked up.

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