Project-based learning means the use of a central project that allows student interaction with a main idea or theme at several levels.
Ideally, every subject the student is studying—mathematics, language skills, science, social studies, and the arts—will connect with the same project theme, turning education into a complete and fully engaged experience for each individual. If possible, the entire school can be involved in the same project, with each grade engaged in age-appropriate tasks and assignments. Charter schools are ideally structured for project-based learning because of their greater flexibility in choosing textbooks and learning strategies.
An excellent example of project-based learning at YES Charter Academy was our Trout Project. Every classroom and subject at YES was involved in hatching and raising steelhead trout, raised from eggs given to us by the US Department of Fish and Game and eventually released into the Feather River.
Younger students learned to observe and predict stages of trout development. Older students studied life cycle, natural resources, and critical problems involved with environment restoration. Students studied California history and the role that fish and streams have played in our state’s development. Math was incorporated through daily measurement of temperatures and statistics regarding survival and hatching rates, including the study of averages—means, modes, and medians. Students also studied related vocabulary and articles. Most classes kept a journal of their observations. As a culminating experience, the students took a field trip to release the young hatchlings into the Feather River.
As this project illustrates, project-based learning at YES Charter Academy aims to educate the whole person in an engaged, fulfilling, and memorable atmosphere. Our whole school came together to study and participate in the life and environment of the steelhead trout. Restoring the young fish to their natural environment gave the students a sense of genuine accomplishment. Working as a team for the good of their community furthered their development as responsible citizens and stewards of the natural world.
The staff and administration of YES Charter Academy believe that project-based learning brings life to learning and creates a more engaged environment for development of life-long understanding.
Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs)
Because academic excellence is a primary goal at YES Charter Academy, we are enthusiastic about the use of Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs), which give every student individualized attention. ILPs encourage full inclusion of students with special needs, teaching methods that respond to students’ strengths and weaknesses, and bonding with student families.
Each ILP begins with a “learning conference” that includes the student, the teacher, and the student’s parents. The conference isn’t just about academics—it includes a chance for students to express their goals and problems without the fear of being judged.
ILPs include individualized lessons and assignments tailored to improving the student’s work in areas that need strengthening. Supplemental schoolwork and assignments designed for individual students may be employed. Parents are asked to examine and sign student homework as part of a collective effort involving parents, teachers, students, and administrators. ILPs give every parent or guardian who wants to be part of their student’s education the opportunity to be involved.