I am about to begin my sixth year of teaching at ZQuest. Last year was my first year teaching at the middle school level. It was a dream come true to teach at the middle school level and to have a phenomenal teaching partner! With the new school year about to begin, my teaching partner and I are getting excited about the Project Based Learning (PBL) units that we are developing. Last year we were able to plan and execute eleven different PBL’s across the curriculum. One of the most exciting moments for me as a teacher is to see my students engaging with an authentic audience in the midst of trying to solve a PBL. In the past the students have been able to work with various businesses in the community to promote a water walk and work with the Mayor of Zeeland to plan a permanent art installation that would reflect the values of our community. It is truly amazing what is possible when students are given access to resources and the ability to connect with experts outside of the school setting.
Now that the new school year is getting ready to begin, my teaching partner and I are brainstorming ways to get the students more involved in the PBL planning process. We like to get ideas for PBL’s from current events or popular media. It is always easier to get students engaged when you connect the material to something current in their lives. So, this year we want the students to find their own problems that they want to solve. In order for this to happen they need to learn about problems that our community is facing.
During the first week of school my teaching partner and I will be helping the students create survey questions. The students will be working in teams to write questions to better understand problems that a business may face. The questions that the students write will be used to create a survey that they will use when talking to business owners or employees. Our goal is to have the students learn about a problem and to connect that problem to the curriculum we are studying. We are hoping that this will create more student buy in to the PBL’s and also help us connect with a larger authentic audience. Something that I have noticed when teaching middle school students is that they love being able to leave the classroom. By connecting with members of the community we will have more opportunities to visit the various businesses that we connect with during the first week of school and we can have more quest visitors come into our classroom to support our students along their way to solving real-world problems.