What works for high schools will work in Metro middle schools, too

by Ashley Heyen, Belmont University Student and Metro Schools Communications Intern Middle PrepsProject-based learning (PBL) through the Nashville Academies has truly been a success in our high schools. The students who participate in these programs have shown better attendance, school involvement and grades. With its great track record, why not incorporate PBL in our middle schools as well?

This summer, eight teachers from Metro middle schools are doing just that by participating in teacher externships. Kelly Henderson, the Executive Director of Instruction, explained that this summer externship program allows the teachers to learn how to bring the relevance of certain industries into the classroom. Using the knowledge they gain from this experience, they will have their students complete a project in the fall or early winter, which will be presented in front of a public audience.

Earlier this week, teachers began their externships with a three day training program at the Martin Center. At this stage, the teachers focused on the curriculum and learned the basics of how to create PBL projects. On Tuesday, the participating teachers worked within their group to brainstorm possible projects. They were then tasked to critique each other’s project plans in order to learn the best way to incorporate peer to peer critique in the classroom.

Now that the three day training program is complete, this July teachers will begin a three day externship with the business they were assigned. The goal for the three days is to find connections between the subject matter and the real world. Business partnerships for the program include Northwestern Mutual, Oz and Deloitte. The majority of businesses are new to the program, which is just another way PBL is growing in Metro Schools.

Businesses were assigned to each school based on their theme. For example, teachers from Apollo Middle School, whose theme is arts and hospitality, will be partnering with Oz, a venue for both visual and performing arts. They are currently expanding their fine arts department at Apollo, which is why the participating teachers believe this will be an exciting opportunity to integrate the arts into their project.

The last step is a workshop day, where teachers finalize their projects before heading back to school and getting the kids involved.

So why start PBL in middle school? PBL is perfect for middle schools because they have always been involved in teams and group work. Also, the success seen at the high school level shows students are not only improving, but also having fun and enjoying the learning process. Why not start that excitement for learning earlier? Apollo Middle School teacher Alyssa Smith also noted how important it is to be involved in the Nashville community. Most students only see their neighborhood, but this program allows students to see other aspects of the city, said Smith.

Project based learning has proven its success. We are excited to see it expand in to our middle schools!