Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo, CA, is unique to the other schools in its area. The institution utilizes Project Based Learning (PBL), an instructional approach that shifts away from teacher-centered instruction and instead emphasizes student-centered projects. Instead of the traditional lecture format where students are often left wondering, “Why are we learning this?” Project Based Learning is contextual, creative, and communal.
While PBL is great for increasing critical thinking, communication, and student collaboration in the learning process, the switch from the traditional classroom structure may leave some students hesitant to take the lead in discussions. Riley Dart, a senior at Central Coast New Tech, became inspired to help incoming freshmen with this transition.
At school, “we are put into group settings very regularly, and have an appointed leader,” Riley said. “A majority of the time we pick someone who has the strongest leadership skills, or who would be the best at keeping the group in check. I would like everyone to have effective leadership skills in the event that they are chosen to be the leader. This project will affect the incoming freshman when they take Research and Communications.”
Riley developed a curriculum where over six months, freshman students learned how to lead a group, how to be part of a group, and how to successfully work together to complete assignments. She presented her lesson plans to teachers, the principal, and the school district in combination with slide decks that can be used to teach future incoming students. Throughout their instruction, Riley noticed the quieter students begin to step up when they needed to. Overall, students became more confident and skilled leaders in their project groups.
“My project connects to the life skills pillar of the goals,” she said. “This is because the freshmen will go on to become sophomores, then eventually graduate high school and college. Later on in their careers, they might be the head of a project and will need to know how to lead a group. With these skills, they have the knowledge to successfully lead that group.”
“I think the most successful part was the teaching of the lessons because I saw the difference in the freshmen from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Riley said. “I learned that I am much stronger than I think I am. This is because I just kept pushing myself through the hardest parts of the project, writing the lesson plans and teaching the lessons, and asking for help when I needed it. I found out that I am passionate about creating other leaders and not just leading others.”
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