Project-Based Learning (PBL) by definition is a teaching method that allows students to learn by working for an extended period of time to fully investigate and engage with a particular subject. New Tech, at Arsenal Technical High School is a program that focuses on providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the 21st century. Students are challenged to build transferrable skills through integrated group projects that push students past traditional learning outcomes. Students are presented with an entry document that highlights a problem from an organization that needs to be resolved. Students are then expected to tackle the projects through the use of PowerPoint presentations or through innovative approaches such as video and performances.
“Students need more than just sitting and getting instruction. They need to be given an objective, some resources and the time to delve into their creativity to figure out how to best meet the objective. PBL does that,” say New Tech Instructor, Mark Mendoza.
This week, New Tech students of the combined English/History block were asked to collaborate with the Indiana State Museum to encourage discovery. Recently, the museum hosted a traveling exhibit, American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, created by the National Constitution Center. The exhibit explored the roaring years of the 1920’s to 1930’s. The exhibit featured many learning tools to engage the audience such as displays, interactive games, artifacts, videos and more. Students of New Tech were asked to recreate this exhibit by developing an educational and academically rich documentary over a wide span of 1920/1930’s-themed topics.
During group presentations students showcased their ability to connect with an audience by transforming what could have been a lackluster history lesson, into a fully interactive activity, creating a safe space for engaging discovery.
Most of the groups created a narrated documentary, integrating iMovie technology, and a follow-up learning activity that tied to the chosen topic. One group created a chronological walk through history, allowing their fellow classmates to physically walk through the lesson, much like a museum. This hands-on learning method gets students out of their seats and allows them to retain the lesson better.
Take a look at one of the Roaring Twenties student projects of the combined classes of Dr. Asege and Mark Mendoza, utilizing iMovie technology:
Mendoza says New Tech students are not only graded for meeting academic standards, but also for strong displays of integrity and communication; skills that make them well-rounded individuals.
“Students are graded on their academic ability but they also receive grades for work ethic, honesty, and kindness,” says Mendoza. “Life and career skills are factored into the overall grade. For instance, the history exam doesn’t become irrelevant, but rather gets balanced with other things that will be important in college and in life.”
Although it comes with the challenge of strong forethought and management from the instructor, project-based learning allows educators to act as a facilitator, serving in more of a support role to give students the opportunity to exchange ideas, collaborate on projects and overcome challenges. A major component of this project is peer evaluation. Not only will the instructor evaluate each performance but each student will also assess one another – offering praise as well as constructive criticism to foster improvement.
“Students learn from and are often more engaged by their peers than by a teacher in the front of the room. Students discuss common problems and get multiple perspectives on how to solve them,” says Mendoza. “They are also expected to be assertive in the collaboration process. Students consult with each other and tap into each other’s creativity.”
Project based-learning is the foundation of New Tech and is already being implemented in classrooms throughout the district. The New Tech academic program at Arsenal Technical High School is attractive to students who enjoy more hands-on engagement and a deeper understanding of subject matter. Students complete assignments through in-depth research, artistic imagery, technology infusion, creative writing and stimulating discussion.
Sophomore Julia M. says, “Arsenal Tech High School has something for everyone and [New Tech] works with my learning style. I’m glad IPS knows students learn in different ways. I want things to be relevant to the real world. When I do my research and then [my classmates and I] make the topic come alive, we learn more; I can remember what I learned and then tie it to other lessons later. I’ve become a more confident presenter. Everyone on my team knows I’m serious about the quality of our presentations. If we need to meet afterschool to finish our visuals and rehearse our talking points, then we do it. Being able to articulate ideas and accept feedback are skills that will carry me through college and my future career as a chef and restaurateur.”
New Tech has already received interest from an additional 243 students for the 2016-2017 school year through the district’s easy online Choice application process. Though the lottery deadline was December 11, interested applicants are welcomed to apply; reach out to our Office of Enrollment and Options at 317.226.4000 Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. or visit our website. You may also contact Arsenal Technical High School at 317.693.5300 to schedule a tour!
IPS strives to remain competitive with the programs and learning opportunities that we make available to our students. Visit the New Tech website to learn more about the program.