Sparks fly for project-based learning at MPHS |

Sparks fly for project-based learning at MPHS

Middle Park High School was teeming with activity Wednesday and Thursday as members of the community came to check out the sophomore class’s project-based learning, set up in the commons.

On one wall of the expansive room, Zack Niedzwiecki made sparks fly as he tuned a pair of skis on Wednesday. Next to him, other students ferried in a bucket of snowballs to complete their snowboarding exhibit.

In a darkened room across the commons, three students — Valerye Rangel, Sierra Jamison and Sam Hoyhtya — literally set up camp, complete with a video of a log fire on a laptop in front of a pitched tent.

However, no student took up more real estate inside the high school than did Gabriel Davidson, who put together a rather creative display for some fly fishing demonstrations.

The projects were assigned to the students as part of the East Grand School District’s project-based learning initiative, explained teacher Lindsay Dalton.

These kinds of projects not only introduce the students to designed thinking and real world application of the skills they’re learning in class, the projects make the students cover a gamut of different educational aspects, including reading, researching, essay writing and even public speaking, as the students had to present their projects to the general public.

“They got to choose what they’re interested in,” Dalton said as she highlighted one of the projects focused on loud, screaming music. “The fact they got to do this about the music they enjoy, they’ve been engaging with our state standards in a way they probably never would have had we sat down to do this with something I gave them.”

For his part, Jack Nesvara created a rather impressive workbench. A Nordic skier and mountain biker, Jack spent the past couple months assembling the workbench using 4x4s for the legs and Masonite and plywood for the countertop, with a handy pegboard to hold his tools and the like.

“We put 800 pounds on it,” he boasted as he walked through his project on sports nutrition and training. “I have been training all my life to do this stuff. I have been working really hard.”

A regular on the sidelines at Middle Park’s sporting contests behind a drum set, Noah Hardman also gravitated to music for his project.

“I think it’s cool because, no matter what it is, you get to show how a certain thing is a big part of our life and how it shows who you are so I think it’s a really nice project,” he said.

He also made time to help set up another group’s project focused on fashion and produced by Paulina Collier, Bianca Ruiz and Madalyn Wright. Asked how would she rate the project-based learning assignment, Madalyn gave it a glowing review.

“I love this,” she said. “I love project-based learning.”

The grading process is unlike regular assignments, too. Rather than receiving a traditional grade from their teacher, the students have to keep track of all of their work before sitting down with the teacher and pitching what grade they think they’ve earned.

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