“How can we eliminate plastics from our environment?” “What are the characteristics of planet Earth which make it unique?” “What features might you change if you were starting a new super planet?” “How does the Internet work and how can it help people in society?”
These and many more thought provoking questions have been studied by 5 – 8 graders at Oak Hill Academy for over 30 years. This project based learning environment has created a magical feeling in the school’s Tech Center where students experience a “Google Lab” atmosphere. According to Headmaster, Joseph Pacelli, Oak Hill teachers have been upgrading the program for this school year. “We will be using the ‘Design Thinking format’ developed by researchers at Stanford as our base. This process used in education and industry takes the learner through the following stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, test and Present. This pathway allows the student team to investigate problems in our society which the students find of interest or they discover while searching sites such as Ted Talks.” states Pacelli.
The aim of this innovative program is to open doors for students to use their curiosity to take ownership of essential questions to develop solutions which teams elaborate on. The goals are for students to experience deep learning as they become skilled collaborators, listeners, problem solvers and leaders. Pacelli concludes, “We have found over the years that our students get truly excited about their projects as they uncover solutions to problems or build a prototype. They are doing work of significance that is meaningful to them, relevant, makes them think deeply, and has them face a challenge. An important feature of the program is that it permits the student to develop a passion, chose a meaningful topic which interests them, and hone life-long personal skills.”