Project based learning provides authentic opportunities for discovery at New Hampton School.

Faculty Development; Project Based Learning

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What’s the best way for teachers to understand the benefits of Project Based Learning? How about to participate in their own project based classroom lesson—as students? On Monday, we welcomed faculty back from Thanksgiving break and prepared to re-engage with students in the classroom. Before jumping back into classes, faculty spent a morning with Angela Marzilli, an independent consultant, thinking about how to incorporate more project based learning into their lesson plans.

New Hampton School physics students use project based learning to predict the path of Skittles.
New Hampton School physics students use project based learning to predict the path of Skittles.

Project Based Learning at New Hampton School

This style of learning is not new to New Hampton School. Project Week has been a keystone of the New Hampton School experience for many years. The week-long session provides dedicated time for students to immerse themselves deeply in exploring one essential questions.

As best practices for learning increasingly point toward authentic project based discovery, teachers have highlighted a need for more time in their classrooms to execute projects, travel off campus, and find real-life experiences. In response to this need, a few years ago New Hampton School added extended block Saturdays. Each class period meets several times throughout the year with a full three-hour block on Saturday morning specifically for these types of learning experiences.

What exactly is Project Based Learning?

Project based learning takes content and skills and applies them to real-world applications. For example, in the class that faculty experienced on Monday, participants spent the morning as students in an Algebra 1 class investigating if it was more cost effective to purchase a hybrid or a conventional car.

New Hampton students in extended blocks made their own paints from linseed oil and pigments in Chemistry.
New Hampton students in a chemistry extended block made their own paints from linseed oil and pigments.

Next Steps for New Hampton School

Classroom innovation and a progressive approach to education are cornerstones of New Hampton School teaching. While Project Week and extended blocks remain integral to the school’s yearly curriculum, faculty continue to look for opportunities to incorporate problem-solving and the development of healthy habits of mind into their daily instruction.

Over the summer, Director of Experiential Learning Jonathan Schwab, attended a 5-day project based learning conference last summer at the Buck Institute for Education. He returned with new instructional approaches and curriculum design ideas. Following Marzilli’s lesson on Monday, faculty discussed more ways to implement project based approaches into their classroom and began work developing new lessons.

During her workshop, Marzilli also shared important lessons she has learned in her approach. In particular, she talked about the importance of allowing students voice and choice in their projects. Motivated by their own decisions and interests, students are engaged and driven to solve problems and find success.

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