Students at Bate Middle and Danville High schools could see themselves on television, as the school system will be featured on “Education Matters” on KET, slated to air Feb. 25, and “NewsHour” on PBS, for which the air date is not yet known.
The schools were chosen for the shows following the implementation of the Danville Diploma and a project-based learning system in many of the classrooms districtwide.
“It’s easy to make a change in one classroom, harder to make a change in a school, but even more challenging to change an entire district.”
Project-based learning differs from traditional classroom learning by encouraging the student to become more active in the process. It implements art and science skills together, for example, as seen in Andrew Groves’ PBL Geometry class at DHS, one of the classrooms included in the “NewsHour” feature.
“What makes project-based learning the most useful is that it is taking those abstract, mathematical concepts and putting them in to real-life situations. That’s what all of our curriculum should do,” Groves said.
“The biggest challenge from PBL is getting buy-in from students. Last year was my first time trying it, and I had to buy-in to it because I had never heard of it,” Groves said.
For some students, the benefits are evident.
“There was a lot of energy and commitment” to the learning style, McGrath said of the students and teachers they encountered.
Dai’Torcha Johnson, a junior at DHS, said project-based learning is a good way to keep kids active and interested. “People enjoy it; you actually learn more with it.”
Johnson was interviewed by the “NewsHour” crew and said that while it was nerve-racking to be on camera, it was also fun. She explained that they kept asking her questions about the bad parts of PBL, and of Groves’ class.
“This class is really awesome,” Johnson said.
She admitted there were teachers who weren’t sold on the idea, but that the new method suited some of her classmates much better than the standard lecture style.
The students interviewed at the high school were primarily chosen by McGrath, the producer. Johnson explained that they were suggested by the teachers, but the choice was up to McGrath and none of the students were aware they were going to be interviewed until the day of, something that Abby Sallee said played out in the interview.
Sallee said it seemed the interviewer attempted to pull the bad about the program from the students; however, she added, “I think he did that just to get us to talk.”
Sallee has experienced PBL from the beginning of the program, which was instituted when she came in as a freshman.
“If I didn’t think I had learned the material, I wouldn’t have signed up to be in it again,” she said, reiterating why she continued in the PBL courses.
Ace Ray, another junior at DHS who was interviewed for the special, said PBL is a fun way to learn. “It’s all about experiencing new stuff.”
That sentiment was echoed by Tanner James, a junior who also was interviewed for the “NewsHour” special. He opted out of the PBL classes last year but decided to return this school year.