Summer+ Learning 2016-17

Project-based Learning

MVPS Focus for Summer+ Learning 2016-17

"We are a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact. Grounded in Christian values, we prepare all students to be college ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders."

Radiating from our mission, we strive to set the conditions for learners to engage in real-world challenges and develop agency for being difference makers. Building on our strengths in design thinking, and honing our capabilities to help "learners apply knowledge to make an impact," we are concentrating efforts on furthering our work in project-based learning and the project-approach.

As we collaborate to strengthen and forward our capacities for deep, contextual learning, we should keep front of mind the three design drivers in our Mount Vernon Manifesto:

How might we make school more reflective of real life?

How might we empower all learners to be seekers and explorers?

How might we inspire one another - and the larger world - through the work we undertake together?

I'm inspired. What do I do, more specifically, this summer?

Click below to see a kind of To-Do list

Preschool Faculty

1. Read the "Project-Based Learning: A Short History" article by Suzie Boss (see below).

2. Read the Becoming Young Thinkers book by Judy Harris Helm (provided by School).

3. ELC/Preschool teachers return to pre-planning with Phase I of their first potential project started. So, the deliverables are: a) Anticipatory planning web, including learning outcomes; b) Initial topic focusing events, including classroom provocations and resources; 3) Ideas for outside experts and field site visits.

4. Explore the resources and rabbit holes on this page (optional).

Lower School Faculty

1. Read the "Project-Based Learning: A Short History" article by Suzie Boss (see below).

2. Read the Setting the Standard for Project-Based Learning book from ASCD (provided by School).

3. Create a UbD plan/framework for a PBL unit in the fall.

4. Explore the resources and rabbit holes on this page (optional).

Middle School Faculty

1. Read the "Project-Based Learning: A Short History" article by Suzie Boss (see below).

2. Read the Setting the Standard for Project-Based Learning book from ASCD (provided by School).

3. Create a UbD plan/framework for a PBL unit in the fall.

4. Explore the resources and rabbit holes on this page (optional).

Upper School Faculty

1. Read the "Project-Based Learning: A Short History" article by Suzie Boss (see below).

2. Read the Setting the Standard for Project-Based Learning book from ASCD (provided by School).

3. Create a UbD plan/framework for a PBL unit in the fall.

4. Explore the resources and rabbit holes on this page (optional).


1. Read the "Project-Based Learning: A Short History" article by Suzie Boss (see below).

2. [Admin Team book TBA]

3. Explore the resources and rabbit holes on this page (optional).

Common Reading for MVPS Faculty & Staff

Building Our Shared Understandings

A number of things connect us as a powerful and fortunate learning community at MVPS. One of the many ways that we grow together is through shared reading experiences. While the summer affords us an opportunity to front load some study during a different pace of life, we'll also draw on these learnings throughout the year.

Everyone should read the Suzie Boss article, "Project-Based Learning: A Short History." For our more in-depth read, the Preschool faculty will dig into Judy Harris Helm's Becoming Young Thinkers. In the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools, the faculty will be reading the ASCD publication from BIE leaders John Larmer, John Mergendoller, and Suzie Boss, entitled Setting the Standard for Project-Based Learning.


Common Read for ALL

“Project-Based Learning: A Short History.” Suzie Boss. Edutopia. September 10, 2011.

Suzie offers a strong, compressed view of PBL and provides some considerable points on the WHY of PBL. Suzie makes the argument that PBL is primarily about real-world learning, and the article is also full of links to explore for deeper diving.


Common Read for PS

"This [NAEYC-recommended] book is designed for preschool through primary grade teachers who know how to do project work but are ready to move to the next level. Focusing on how children become young thinkers, the book begins with mind, brain, and education science and instructional guidelines for all learning experiences, and then connects these to the rich foundation of the project approach. Helm provides specific strategies for deepening project work, including how to select meaningful topics, plan for projects, integrate standards, support children’s questioning, create provocations to promote engagement, and help children represent their ideas."


Common Read for LS, MS, US

"It’s not enough to just “do projects.” Today’s projects need to be rigorous, engaging, and in-depth, and they need to have student voice and choice built in. Such projects require careful planning and pedagogical skill. The authors—leaders at the respected Buck Institute for Education—take readers through the step-by-step process of how to create, implement, and assess PBL using a classroom-tested framework. Also included are chapters for school leaders on implementing PBL systemwide and the use of PBL in informal settings."

Planning for PBL

A Deliverable for Faculty Preplanning

"Learners apply knowledge to make an impact." As we learn more deeply about PBL and the project approach, we should prepare to apply our growing knowledge to make an even more vigorous impact in our classrooms and learning environments.

SO... before returning to MVPS for Pre-Planning, create a PBL unit plan or a lesson plan framework for your ELC, Preschool, Lower, Middle or Upper School learners.

When we regather for Pre-Planning, in the early days, we will share our plans (in visual form!) for a gallery walk, feedback on our prototypes, and possible collaborative synergies. If you find yourself needing any support for this work over the summer, be sure to reach out to someone, start with questions, assume the best, share the well, fail up... and have fun.

We are all expected to implement at least one "PBL unit" in the fall, and at least one in the spring. Let's learn by doing!

Consider This...

Suggestions for Sharing the Well this Summer


As you read and prototype, share what you're learning and thinking on Twitter with #MVlearns.

Cognitive Brew

Consider connecting with others over a beverage of choice for an impromptu book club.

Share a Post

If you feel so inclined, we'd love for you to share a post on mvifi.org/blog.

Additional Resources and Rabbit Holes

The Purposeful Kind, Of Course!

If you Google "project-based learning," you're likely to get about 3,000,000 hits. If you don't want to sort through all of those yourself, then we'd suggest you focus your searching and browsing with Edutopia and the Buck Institute for Education. Both top-notch organizations provide exceptional resources for PBL. Just below there are some "trailheads" to help give you a pathfinder to enjoy some further learning journeys.


Edutopia’s Resource List for PBL


From videos to blog posts and from resource guides to discussion forums, this “Core Strategy” category on Edutopia’s site shares a veritable universe to explore relating to PBL.

Of note: “Project-Based Learning: Research Review.” Vanessa Vega, Former Edutopia Senior Manager of Research. Originally published December 3, 2012 and updated December 1, 2015.

In this series of five articles, learn how researchersdefine project-based learning, review some of the possible learning outcomes, get our recommendations of evidence-based components for successful PBL, learn about best practices across disciplines, find tips for avoiding pitfalls when implementing PBL programs, and dig in to a comprehensive annotated bibliography with links to all the studies and reports cited in these pages.


Buck Institute for Education


Take 5-10 minutes to browse and scroll through the landing page, and you’ll find pathways to several collections of great resources.

Of note: “Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements.” John Larmer and John Mergendoller. BIE Blog. April 21, 2015. To support high quality PBL, BIE created a comprehensive, research-based model for PBL – a “gold standard."

At the Buck Institute for Education (BIE), our highest priority is to help teachers prepare students for successful lives. We do this by showing teachers how to use Project Based Learning in all grade levels and subject areas. As a mission-driven nonprofit organization, BIE creates, gathers, and shares high-quality PBL instructional practices and products and provides highly effective services to teachers, schools, and districts.

TED Talks (and Others!)

Ideas Worth Spreading (that Help Us Imagine Possibility)

TED talks provide a great way to see ideas in action, to peek into other people's projects, and to get inspired to imagine possibilities for our own learners. Many of you may remember that we have a TED playlist of 50 great education-related talks. And there are four incredible talks highlighted below.

Of course, there are also playlists like "Talks by brilliant kids and teens." And there are TEDx talks from folks like Shawn Cornally of Iowa BIG. The Do Lectures and PopTech and Aspen Ideas Festival are just three more of some other phenomenal idea spreaders.

When you need a break from the sand in your bathing suit, a rainy day film festival, or a kick starter for your next awesomesauce project, consider a perusal of the videos here and elsewhere.


Cesar Harada: How I teach kids to love science

"At the Harbour School in Hong Kong, TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada teaches citizen science and invention to the next generation of environmentalists. He's moved his classroom into an industrial mega-space where imaginative kids work with wood, metal, chemistry, biology, optics and, occasionally, power tools to create solutions to the threats facing the world's oceans. There, he instills a universal lesson that his own parents taught him at a young age: "You can make a mess, but you have to clean up after yourself.""


Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover

"Today's math curriculum is teaching students to expect — and excel at — paint-by-numbers classwork, robbing kids of a skill more important than solving problems: formulating them. Dan Meyer shows classroom-tested math exercises that prompt students to stop and think."


Tavi Gevinson: A teen just trying to figure it out

"Fifteen-year-old Tavi Gevinson had a hard time finding strong female, teenage role models — so she built a space where they could find each other. At TEDxTeen, she illustrates how the conversations on sites like Rookie, her wildly popular web magazine for and by teen girls, are putting a new, unapologetically uncertain and richly complex face on modern feminism."


John Hunter: Teaching with the World Peace Game

"John Hunter puts all the problems of the world on a 4'x5' plywood board — and lets his 4th-graders solve them. At TED2011, he explains how his World Peace Game engages school kids, and why the complex lessons it teaches — spontaneous, and always surprising — go further than classroom lectures can."