Project Based Learning: STEM & Art Programs

Project Based Learning: STEM & Art Programs

Sappo’s Project-Based Learning Program (PBL)

Project-based learning is a classroom approach designed to engage students in an investigative journey through authentic problems. As an important addition to an already engaging repertoire of teaching strategies, PBL allows teaching to affect motivation and critical thinking. Learning is sustained for longer periods of time for further use and development. Retrieval becomes more automatic and fluid, enriching the learning process as the student reaches higher levels of achievement. See more details

The process completes an active learning cycle that begins in early childhood, yet very rarely extends past school age. However, using a highly developed PBL program allows the Sappo teacher to extend active learning throughout a student’s entire school career. To understand this correlation to early childhood brain building, think of how babies shake rattles and roll balls to determine what these can do. The act of body movement connected to a thinking process stimulates brain activity. The information gained through these experiences are now stored in the brain and become ready for use as the world is further explored. Brain cells are activated and learning happens with an emphasis on increased synaptic connections. When information is gathered through such engaging experiences it is more likely to be retrievable when the brain begins to search for the information.

Sappo’s Project-Based Learning Program has been actively engaging students for decades. We continue to build on the program in accord with Sappo research which allows us to synchronize the planning and execution to support each learning style. The student is immersed into real-world or mock activities, with an emphasis on problem solving. PBL helps develop mastery in finding solutions in real world settings. The student also delves into the world of careers and the associated choices they need to face.

Despite the proven effectiveness of early age experiential learning, students traditionally are forced to shift unnaturally to rote learning with a reading based methodology. Although at Sappo, reading and writing skills are emphasized, we do not ignore other ways the child learns. We incorporate all strategies that encourage whole-brain learning with PBL built into every subject. We also offer curricula that is entirely PBL. These include our STEM Program, Interactive Art and Whole-Brain ENL classes. The benefits of PBL reach all Personality Types and Learning Styles, spanning across cognitive abilities that include general education learners, Giftedness and the Learning Disabled. Read about each by further exploring our website.

PBL and Sappo’s STEM Program
(Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)
There is an ever-growing need for STEM graduates in this country. High ranking colleges are eagerly pursuing candidates with high school STEM experience. Therefore, the emphasis on STEM is helping our students prepare for better colleges and perform more efficiently in the career of their choice. Students across the nation have not been measuring up to college entrance expectations and subsequent success in career proficiency. Better K-12 programs have surely been needed. With this in mind, Sappo continues to present its students with the best possible outcome upon graduation. Keeping up with ever-changing global demands and college standards, Sappo continues to stay ahead of the more traditional and outdated ways of educating students. Sappo’s STEM Program has become an active ingredient in an already innovative student-based curriculum.

We are aware that focused attention needs to be given to STEM. As one professional stated, “State-level initiatives related to STEM…may well have helped move the needle in math and science…” (Jon Erickson, President of the Education Division ACT). In a continuous drive toward raised expectations for all of our students, STEM was developed to match our curriculum. The program incorporates important aspects of scientifically oriented higher learning thinking and all that supports this process. As a private holistic school, based on Holistic Education, attention has been centered on collaborative learning and thematic experiences. STEM solidifies this process and allows it to become a universally understood study.

STEM develops and improves the art of critical thinking, logical reasoning and collaboration skills with an emphasis on science, math, technology, and engineering. Seven skill sets are developed, observed and monitored. These include:

· learning and applying content information
· integrating content
· interpreting and communicating information
· inquiry
· logical reasoning
· team collaboration
· appropriate application of technology

STEM is supported by Sappo Strategies to ensure that practice is perfected and easily retrieved for later application and use. For instance, Brain activity techniques work together with STEM to activate learning and produce the high level social skills needed for college acceptance and job acquisition. This elevated program keeps each student in place for a successful future.

PBL and Art
At Sappo, Project-Based Learning moves our Art program to stimulate learning through increased brain function. Students drive their own learning through inquiry, as they work collaboratively to research and create projects that reflect their artistic knowledge and unique styles. The benefits students gain cross over to practical arenas. Group activities encourage communication proficiency as students explore projects using technological supports to plan projects together. Projects are specifically aimed toward viable and meaningful artful careers, or used to develop the creative thinking and artistic skill that can benefit any career choice. Students are introduced to professionals in fields where art dominates and they enjoy experiences in real life settings. These fields include such careers as Interior Design and Engineering, where creativity and production mesh. Since engineering as an important part of STEM, our art courses become a very important support program. As students learn to identify and recreate works of art that include building design and architectural structure, they are in fact, developing engineering skills. Three-dimensional visualization and drawing serve the engineering mind. Both technical and non-technical skills are included in the study of engineering, just as portrait drawing and nature sketches enhances the study of science. Leonardo da Vinci is a classic example of the bond between art and design. At Sappo School, art is not reduced to an unimportant subject, but rises to match the levels of all major subjects. The collaboration process initiates creativity even in students who themselves may feel passive toward art.

The Sappo School Art Program also provides students with an outlet for self-expression along with creativity. Students present original works of art and learn to present these as they interpret their own design to others. They learn about the great artists of the past and current day in a multisensory way that stimulates brain activity and active recall, leading to successful experiences. Doing so allows students to gain confidence and a sense of tranquility. By immersing themselves in the creation of their art, students with anxiety find a sense of calmness that they are able to carry forward throughout the day, thus positively impacting subject lessons. Art allows students to be evaluated based on their effort and individual expression of creativity. Once students become sure that their strong effort will translate into success, they are able to gain confidence in their ability to perform in more challenging classes. When students feel comfortable, confident and prepared, learning can take place more effectively and Project-Based Learning becomes an important tool toward reaching that goal.

PBL and Learning Disabilities
By engaging our students in project based learning activities, students who struggle to learn through visual or auditory methods are able to thrive and gain access to a fuller curriculum. Our project-based learning approach allows students to explore their own curiosities, challenge themselves and learn how to solve problems. All of this enhances the educative process for the learning and removes the frustration that often comes with the more traditional approach of pure data acquisition.

PBL is beneficial to all students, but is particularly effective with students who have difficulty with language. For instance, the approach has helped our students with reading disabilities to learn measurable better using this approach since it minimizes the impact of reading and writing on their education. These students become more relaxed and comfortable during all stages of project involvement as their real strengths become more evident. They are in an academic environment that allows them to enthusiastically gain and express knowledge through action and observation. Since we know that learning occurs best when a student feels both safe and comfortable, the brain is able to process and store information in a more efficient manner and as a result, the information is better able to be retrieved in the future.

This fact is true for all learning disabled students, including those who suffer with ADHD or display processing delays. The projects are self-driven, though closely monitored. Lowered self-esteem and the resulting anxiety that follows is also improved when success in the process builds confidence in students who had previously felt insecure about their ability to learn in a school setting. As students build their self-esteem through PBL, they increasingly believe in their own ability to learn and begin believing in themselves, even when being challenged. They come to realize that he or she can rise to meet such challenges both in the classroom setting and on into the world.

Our PBL Program is found running throughout all curricula. More specifically, Sappo School’s STEM program provides students with the ability to explore science, technology, engineering and math by solving real-world problems. The approach allows us to guide our students to seek careers and become immersed with the realities they will face day to day. Statistically, students with a learning disability strive more intensely than a student with natural abilities. When given the chance, these students reach high levels of achievement and prosper in well-chosen and well-matched careers. Through this style of learning, the students who may have previously struggled to gain access to the full curriculum are able to flourish and become the critical thinking, problem-solving citizens needed in our 21st century global community.

PBL and Giftedness
Gifted children are always ready to explore newness, willing to be challenged and more than able to seek solutions. They fall easily into PBL, almost creating the opportunities themselves at times which may seem inconvenient in conventional classrooms. Sappo classrooms are active and bubbling with project-based lessons, satisfying the innate drive for exploration that leads the Gifted student forward until the unknown becomes familiar. The naturalness of this process is not without its limitations. Often, the Gifted student does not receive consistent and valid feedback due to the nature of his intelligence. They are acquiring knowledge to such a degree that teachers tend to ignore important and most basic academic needs, like organization. PBL in the Sappo classroom provides such feedback for these independent learners. Complex problems are studied in groups and the group depends on data collection and organization of thoughts and solutions. Their common sense and originality serve as a model to peers who may themselves model organizational structure. The relationship becomes symbiotic. In this setting the Gifted student flourishes and grows, becoming comfortable with his or her own gift of intelligence.

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