A+ News: Penrose Elementary adopts project-based learning

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Penrose Elementary School is taking a new approach to learning – it’s called project-based learning and they are the first elementary school in the area to implement it school-wide.

Project-based learning is student centered and focuses on collaboration, communication and critical thinking.

The new approach is now a school-wide approach at Penrose Elementary in all subjects, but it’s also been added as a “special class” like art, physical education or music.

And for some students, it’s their new favorite subject.

“We had to go to Specials and that was a bummer, because I wanted to work,” said Javon Williams Grady, a fourth-grader at Penrose.

“When the kids see relevancy, they are often times more engaged,” said Tamara Sobin, the principal.

Sobin said engaging students is the whole idea behind project based learning.

“We had to make books about the pictures and before we did that we had to tell the teacher something about the pictures and some people said round for orange,” said Amelia Children, a second-grader.

“Can they collaborate, can they communicate with others, can they use critical thinking skills to answer questions, do they know how to use technology in ways that are helping to support them?” said Sobin.

After a year of investigating the concept, and with support from teachers and the district, Penrose Elementary decided to go for it and implement project based learning school-wide.

“They were excited about the opportunities that we could have to prepare them for group work or things that they might encounter in middle schools, high schools and beyond that,” said Sobin.

“What we do is we sometimes, we will go outside and take a hula-hoop and work in groups and we would all get in a circle of six and we would all hold our hands together and we would actually try to teamwork to get the hula-hoop around 10 times,” said Williams Grady. “If we got that done we could go play and it was really really fun. We all worked together.”

Sobin said the projects teach the students essential skills like listening and communicating that they will need for the rest of their lives.

“How to manage their time, how to collaborate, how to do all of those things as adults we kind of jump into,” said Sobin.

“It’s helping us learn because we are learning how to work together,” said Williams Grady.

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