Students at Calvert High School in Maryland are using project-based learning to tackle real-world issues and develop essential professional skills. As part of the Calvert County Public Schools RISE Project-Based Learning (PBL) program, students in Advance Placement (AP) European History teacher Ms. Amie Dryer’s class were challenged to create a “Proposal for Change.”

Ms. Dryer explained that “students had to provide a solution to a real-world issue that impacts them. Working in collaborative groups, students conducted research, spoke with topic experts, and determined the best course of action to alleviate the issue.”

Calvert High students and teacher Ms. Dyer(far right) present at Board of Education meeting. Credit: Calvert County Public Schools

The assignment concluded with students presenting their proposals to the CHS administration, district leaders, elected officials, and community members. Topics included traffic control, vaping in the restrooms, and school lunch choices.

“This project-based learning assignment has helped me to learn how to be more professional,” shared CHS student Kathleen LeHoman. “I am much more confident on how to dress, how to talk to people, and how to collaborate in a professional setting.”

Members of the “Problems, Perspectives, and Precautions – Vaping at CHS” group CHS students Kassidy Dillard, Kathleen LeHoman, and Maia Nerby had the opportunity to present their team’s research and proposal to the entire Calvert County Board of Education (BOE) at the March BOE meeting.

The students shared that other School Districts have used their solution to place air-quality detectors in school bathrooms to help resolve the issue of vaping and smoking in bathrooms. Additionally, students provided funding options such as using ESSER or applying for a 911 grant.

“This was a trial run at being an adult,” said CHS student Maia Nerby. “The skills I developed on how to talk to adults outside of the classroom through formal emails and create a formal presentation, I know I will be using in the future.”

As a result of the presentation, the BOE directed staff to investigate the feasibility of installing the equipment in high school bathrooms.

“This invitation for students to present at the Board of Education’s meeting is a perfect example of the benefits of project-based learning – specifically building student confidence and teaching skills that students can use beyond high school,” said Ms. Ashley Curtin, CCPS’ RISE Program Lead Teacher, Social Studies Department.

CCPS’ RISE Project Based Learning (PBL) professional learning pathway was established as a part of the Re-Imagining Social Studies Student Engagement (RISE) grant for implementation in the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years. The program is designed to train a new cohort of teachers each August in the essential elements and framework of PBL instructional approach. The RISE PBL program builds upon the initial training with job-embedded, ongoing professional learning and collaboration for teachers at monthly meetings throughout the school year.

As a result of the program, teachers in the PBL pathway have designed projects, aligned to curriculum content and skills standards, that challenge students to collaborate with community partners while honing 21st century skills in research, presentation, and professionalism in order to produce a meaningful public product that incorporates their learning and meaningfully impacts the community.

The program is being recognized as a success, with students gaining essential skills and confidence. It’s also clear that the projects being undertaken by the students are having a real impact, with the BOE looking at the feasibility of installing air-quality detectors in high school bathrooms.

With the RISE PBL program set to continue over the next two years, there’s no doubt that more students in Calvert County will be gaining valuable real-world experience and developing important skills.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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