Over the past year, teachers at the International School of Prague have formed Professional Focus Groups (PFG) based on their own professional interests. The purpose of these groups is for teachers to interact from elementary through high school and focus on their practice, as well as moving the school toward providing an “authentic global education.” These open ended groups empower teachers to think outside the box and to innovate without the usual limitations found in traditional school organizational structures.
The school has now also formed a Parent Focus Group to enable parents to join in the school wide conversations about learning and contribute to how we will develop and change our school over time. If our school is going to continue to be relevant to our student learners, the parental component is crucial!
Today the Parent Focus Group discussed the concepts of Project Based Learning (PBL). This is where students participate in a project usually over an extended period of time working in small groups toward a real world goal. To frame our discussion about PBLs, the parent group watched a video entitled: Applying Math Skills to a Real World Problem.
This 6 week project involving grade 10 geometry students from Mountlake Terrace High School near Seattle, is a compelling example of how schools can truly engage and empower students. In this project students working in groups of 3 or 4 were tasked with designing a 2,000-student high school for the year 2050. Here’s a description of the project:
In a period of six weeks, students must develop a site plan, a scale model, floor plans, a perspective drawing, a cost estimate, and a written proposal. They must then make an oral presentation to local school architects who judge the projects and “award” the contract — all making use of geometric and mathematical concepts. (Read this Edutopia.org outline of the project, which includes several Edutopia videos that profile student-architect teams.)
The video shows highly engaged students, designing, collaborating, presenting and working with professional architects. Their enthusiasm and focus of the student learners was palpable to everyone in the group.
After viewing the video, Parent Focus Group members discussed various aspects of this project. They acknowledged the variety of real world skills that these students were required to employ beyond understanding geometric formulas. Some parents questioned the impact of such a process on the ability for teachers to “cover the curriculum,” but at the same time recognized that these students were truly learning how to learn and would remember and retain the learning from this experience for the rest of their lives. Group members also discussed our own experiences in school and how little, many of us retained from subjects like geometry or trigonometry.
The Parent Focus Group at the International School of Prague is one of many ways in which we are bringing the voices of all school members into the process of development and change. It is only through the participation and the sharing of ideas of all constituencies, that we can we truly re-envision our schools to meet the needs of Twenty First Century learners.
If you’d like to read more about the architectural project follow this link: http://www.edutopia.org/mountlake-terrace-geometry-design