Family ties to Project Based Learning at Grass Lake School

"He ran with it and was successful because he was having fun. I don't think he will ever forget the states of matter."

Parent Sylvia Kulaga was talking about her second-grader, Ryan.

Ryan is a student at Grass Lake School where the entire building staff is committed to implementing learning through a process that is focused on being student-centered, allowing the student to acquire knowledge through project work and experience called Project Based Learning (PBL).

Ryan's teacher, Nicole Sweeney, proposed to her Second Grade classroom the following questions: What's the matter with my food? How can we, as scientists, explain how matter changes when preparing food? This science learning standard was used as the foundation and launched deeper learning on the three states of matter they were expected to cover in science class.

The end goal was for students to become "Master Chefs" demonstrating the preparation of a food that began in one state and through cooking, transformed into a different state. They spent time learning and investigating this concept by including the cafeteria coordinator, hands on experiments and in school cooking. Ultimately, students were involved in developing a video presentation of their demonstration of changing matter. Ms. Kulaga shared, "Ryan was very nervous at first. He got over the fear as his creativity bloomed."

PBL has many side effects and some can be seen through the journey Ryan has had. Ryan became more engaged and was willing to take more creative risks. He did this both in his video but then became open to sharing his project with the entire school in a live demonstration grades PeK-8th.

Ryan became deeply connected to his idea and the content and according to his mom, "Ran with it. It was nice for us because we bonded over his school work." He also needed to learn how to manage his time for the project while solving problems on the fly. Ms. Kulaga shared how much Ryan strived for quality work and was willing to revise his video so that it was improved to his liking. His attitude changed towards the work and his excitement turned him into a better divergent thinker willing to take risks in front of a diverse aged audience.

Ryan not only created a very comprehensive video that dove deeper into the states of matter but he participated in the "live" demonstration known as a PBL Showcase. The PBL Showcase lasted two days while each grade level had their projects out for viewing through demonstration or personal interactions run by students for the entire school. Students visited and explored new ways of learning and sharing their knowledge.

Most importantly, as Ms. Kulaga shared, there was a shared feeling- "Proud- I was proud of him and he was proud of himself." This type of learning has made a huge impact on Ryan as well as the other students at GLS. PBL has helped us at Grass Lake School shift learning to the kids- it makes an impact!

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