Project-Based Learning Takes Off at Roosevelt School
Roosevelt first-graders learn about geography
A first-grader in teacher Shari Tsuchiyama’s class rushed up to her during a recent geography lesson, announcing with enthusiasm, “I found the Caltrain tracks!”
Students in Tsuchiyama’s class were huddled in groups of three and four students each, leaning over large city maps laid out on tables throughout the room. Tsuchiyama and several classroom volunteers gave each student a highlighting marker and instructed them to highlight places and landmarks on the map. Students were eager and engaged, and couldn’t wait to report back to their teacher all the interesting places they found.
Besides train tracks, students also noticed lakes, schools and roads.
The lesson was one of the first in a series called “Me on the Map,” in which students learn about and map their classroom, their school, their community, their city and their state, culminating in a collaborative hands-on project such as a large-scale clay topography map of California or a 3-D model of Redwood City.
Tsuchiyama’s first-grade class is part of a pilot program called project-based learning that Roosevelt has been offering in one classroom per grade level since the fall of 2008. The program has been very popular with students, parents and staff. In late January, the Redwood City School Board will hear a presentation from Roosevelt staff and vote on whether Roosevelt will adopt project-based learning in every classroom beginning in the 2010–11 school year.
Students in project-based learning classrooms learn the same curriculum as students in other classes, but the instructional approach is somewhat different. Project-based learning revolves around “real world” problem solving, research-based solutions and student teamwork through projects and presentations.
In Katy Vawter’s fourth-grade class at Roosevelt, for example, students are learning about Martin Luther King Jr., and they are also being challenged to think about how they can have an impact on the world.
“We are studying King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and then I am asking students to think about their own dreams: their dreams for their family, their school, their community, their environment and their world,” said Vawter.
Throughout this unit, students in Vawter’s class are collecting change in a “helping jar,” and at the end of the unit they will research and select a charity or cause and donate the money.
“Involving students in collecting money, researching causes to contribute to, and working together to make a decision is typical of the project-based learning approach,” said Vawter.
Principal Trish Girardi is enthusiastic about the positive effect the project-based learning pilot has had at Roosevelt.“The project-based learning program has built a stronger community at Roosevelt,” she said. “I see teachers collaborating, students working together on projects, parents and community volunteers helping with projects, and students building strong social skills. Roosevelt classrooms are cheerful and engaging places for students, and teachers enjoy the high level of engagement from students.”
Roosevelt is offering tours to parents of prospective kindergarteners and older students interested in enrolling in the school. Please call the school at 650-369-5597 to schedule a school tour.
Redwood City School District is accepting new student registrations and Schools of Choice applications during the month of February. For more information, please contact the Schools of Choice office at the district office, 650-423-2237.