Cultivating Health and Happiness at St Paul’s Henty
This year at St Paul’s Henty, students are continuing their Project Based Learning (PBL) journey. Over the past year, our senior students have embraced learning this way and due to the success we have had so far, we have begun teaching PBL from Kindergarten to Year 6. This is an exciting step on our path towards providing active, real world learning for our students.
Over the past few weeks, students in Kindergarten to Year 6 have been coming together to further develop the important soft skills required to continue working with PBL and for students to become global citizens in the future world. The skills specifically focused on were creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Our sessions have been a great opportunity for our senior students to showcase their learning and model this for their younger peers.
At the start of the year, students in Years 3-6 participated in a project focusing on sustainability and our ever-changing world. This unit started off well, however due to COVID this had to change (like many things). Students developed a sound understanding of the problem and continued to develop soft skills, yet they did not end up creating a public product. This was disappointing for us, yet it has inspired us to come back better than ever with a new health focused
PBL for the end of this term, continuing into Term 4. Over the past six weeks our main focus was for students to experience soft skills through participating in a variety activity in mixed level groupings. Students loved working on STEAM based challenges to get them thinking beyond the normal classroom and sharing their thoughts with their peers. One key requirement for students was that they work with partners that they hadn’t worked with before. This helped students to begin to approach tasks with a new perspective.
This week, we are turning our open learning center into a restaurant as our entry event for the new PBL. Our restaurant will provide the ambiance of a regular restaurant, with tablecloths, soft music playing in the background, candles and waiters (the teachers). Students will be sampling foods from all the food groups, cut into unusual shapes to hide the identity of the foods. They will then rate the foods on the taste, texture, smell and touch. We will ask students to approach this task with an open mind and sample all of foods, regardless of their preconceptions of what the food may be.
This will be an important reminder for students going into a major PBL to approach it with an open mind. Due to our schools farming connections, our unit will be focusing on food from the garden (or paddock) to the plate, with students considering all the ways that people consume and enjoy food. We will also have a major wellness focus for students, which we believe is crucial at the current time, with the uncertainties of the world. This unit will be titled Cultivating health and happiness and we look forward to tackling new problems and finding solutions.
In the past, students have reflected that they felt empowered by the learning and they enjoyed feeling like adults working towards providing solutions for real world problems. They liked that they could take responsibility for their own learning and work towards a common goal at their own pace. They are supported and strengthened by their peers and they learnt to value what other students can offer them as learners. PBL has made the learning realistic for students in our school and we have noticed that they prefer learning this way because it is relevant and exciting. It has become a major focus for our school to provide agile learning for students moving forward.
We are hoping to achieve a sense of fulfillment again with our new PBL. Later this year, staff will be participating in the PBLWorks three-day online seminar and we are all looking forward to further developing our skills in order to best support our students learning needs. We are excited about the possibilities of PBL as educators and we are thrilled to see what the future of our school holds by learning this way.