Can you guess what Space, Bees, Chemistry, Egypt, Cars, and Vesuvius have in common? They are all topics that one class of 2nd/3rd grade students have chosen to explore as part of Project Power. This student-driven learning started three years ago when teacher Katie Huffner encouraged her students to explore what interested them. That first group of students really enjoyed the freedom to select and explore their topics, so Huffner has continued Project Power in her classroom since that time. This year, she co-teaches with Kate Stoessel in the Flaming Origami Dragons class.
“High Meadows values lifelong learning and gives students an opportunity to seek out knowledge and information related to their interests and curiosities,” she said. “Through Project Power, the students have the power to take charge of their learning and what speaks to them.”
Students Select Topics To Explore In-Depth
The students select a topic that interests them, explore it, and share their learnings with classmates. They can work individually, in pairs, or in groups of up to three people. They can also choose to learn about multiple projects a year or focus on one that lasts all year.
Once students identify their topic, they develop five research questions to guide their learning, Stoessel said. They typically work on their projects one to two mornings a week. They may conduct research in the class library, use the school’s online non-fiction search tools, or conduct interviews with experts on campus such as librarians and art teachers.
After students have explored answers to their questions, they brainstorm how to share their learning.
“Project Power is a great way to let kids show their different skills come through and use talents in different ways,” Huffner said. “They get to practice research, collaboration, public speaking, and organization skills.”
They have been very creative in how they present their knowledge, she said. One student made a space suit, and another made a volcano model. One group created a theatrical production, and one produced a video. Last year, after one student explored bees and shared how important they are, the entire class decided to take action to help save the bees. They planted bee-attracting plants on campus.
Waylon C. is a 2nd grade student in the Huffner/Stoessel class this year. He chose to learn about Flight and Space.
“We had free time to research and read about our topic in books in the classroom, from the library, and on Epic on the iPads,” he said. “I read about the Wright Brothers and the first airplane flights and how they crashed, but they kept trying. And, I read about the Milky Way and how there’s something like 100 billion stars or more in our galaxy. It was just something I wanted to learn about, just for me.”
Student-driven learning is an important part of the High Meadows education philosophy. As an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, High Meadows follows principles that develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who are motivated to succeed. Project Power is one example of how teachers and students are putting those principles into practice.