A Traditional School Transforms After Embracing the Innovative Possibilities of PBL

  • School: Calavera Hills Middle School

  • The Challenge:
    When the School Board asked district middle schools to implement a PBL initiative but didn’t provide the resources to do so, this middle school with a large, diverse staff needed to find a way to train its time-strapped teacher workforce in a way that would inspire them without making PBL feel like one more thing on their plates. While the principal was very enthusiastic and ready to do something innovative for the school with its PBL implementation, they didn’t know where to begin.
  • The Solution:

    • CraftED worked very closely with the Principal to strategically plan their Professional Development in a way that would carefully accommodate teacher needs, staff culture, and offer a manageable transition that would engage rather than alienate staff. CraftED became a steady, welcome presence at the school, doing several small workshops on site that allowed teachers to feel regularly supported and connected to the ongoing process of expanding their PBL capabilities. In this way, we sowed the seeds of PBL confidence and capability with the teaching staff with regular, authentic touch points. Over the course of this time, the school’s teachers received approximately 45 hours of 1:1 and grade level coaching.
    • Along the way, we realized that the staff wasn’t calibrated on student collaboration-teachers had a wide variety of ideas about what collaboration should look like, whose responsibility it was to teach student collaboration, and there was limited knowledge about how to scaffold or effectively assess collaboration; so CraftEd co-created a collaboration rubric with them and provided two additional workshops on scaffolding and assessing collaboration to help the staff become aligned in their expectations and responsibilities as it related to student collaboration.The initiative was so successful that the original month-to-month engagement was continued for a total of three years working together.
  • The Results:
    Over time, the school achieved a remarkable culture shift to innovative work. And it was accomplished in a way that felt exciting and manageable to teachers and administrators. In fact, the teachers responded so well that each grade level ultimately developed an interdisciplinary project! Many teaching teams were so inspired that they developed 2-3 additional projects for their class.

“Creating opportunities for inspired Project Based Learning around meaningful and relevant curriculum is not an easy feat within the walls of traditional schools and districts. Dr. Pieratt’s knowledge and experience has been extremely helpful as we create shifts in pedagogy AND mindsets. There is no program that can accomplish what she has done in assisting us in creating curriculum that inspires and drives curiosity. The team at Calavera Hills Middle School is eternally grateful.”

-Michael Ecker, Principal, Calavera Hills Middle School