Upper School students are given 70 minutes to work on a passion project 3 days each week. They problem-solve, experiment, falter and keep striving. Through the process, they learn real-world skills that will serve them when they are adults working on projects at their workplaces. Some of the Learning Goals for project learning are creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, a growth mindset, societal impact and service, interdisciplinary integration, development of student portfolios.
Each project is either designed by a teacher or proposed by the student at the conception stage and addresses an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. The students work either independently or in small teams and exercise real-life skills in their areas of interest while being fully supported by teachers, community experts, and leaders brought in to match the students’ interests. At the end of each quarter, all the students’ projects are showcased as part of a community-wide event.
In a recent Play Production Project, the students vetted and selected the play, built the sets themselves, sourced the costumes, learned stage makeup, created and executed a marketing plan to promote the play, created a budget and managed finances, built a lighting and sound plan, created a cleaning schedule, made refreshments for the intermission and finally produced and performed in the play. With only guidance, the students handled every aspect of the play from soup to nuts allowing them to not only complete a behemoth task but leave with pride and joy as they shared the fruit of their passions with others.
Prior Projects Offered
Advanced Jazz Performance and History
Advanced Rocketry with Air Brake Design
Myth and Watercolor
National TARC rocketry competition
Architecture and Design
Art History: Creativity and Communication
Painting: Acrylics and Oils
Beginning Jazz Performance
Performing Arts: Iowa High School Speech Competition
Creativity. Students achieve project outcomes in a variety of ways and are given the tools, resources, and freedom to do so. Students experiment with a variety of possible choices/solutions. Students engage in original thought based on their own understanding and experience. Students understand that foundational knowledge and basic skills allow for more nuanced creativity.
Collaboration. Students work together to achieve project outcomes. Students apply effective strategies to get the most out of group work, in terms of conflict resolution, a division of labor, peer feedback.
Communication. Student practice using various communication methods: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and visual expression.
Critical thinking. Students use goals/criteria to assess the quality of their group’s ideas/outcomes. Students explore the various material and come to an informed, justified conclusion.
A growth mindset. Students experience that hard work and constructive critical reflection lead to improved outcomes. Students make use of opportunities to complete several drafts/prototypes for a project. Failure is delayed success.
Societal Impact and Service. Students understand that the value of a project comes in its ability to contribute to society. Project outcomes will be considered in terms of both local and social sustainability.
Interdisciplinary Integration. Students explore topics from a variety of perspective and integrate skills from across disciplines to create meaningful project outcomes.
Portfolios. Students work towards creating products that can be documented and shared.