Project Based Learning Takes Root with Seventh Grade Students

Making his way across one of the bridges that make up a part of the student made trails,
seventh grader Scotty Cameron balances and smiles.

In the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, Principal William Hahn from Eleanor N. Johnson Middle School (JMS) and Principal Bridget Gough from Bird Middle School (BMS) established a program for seventh graders entitled “Project Based Learning.” From both schools, there are 24 advisors, comprised of staff members and teachers, and 25 seventh graders from both schools. The goal of the program is to have both staff members and students collaborate to create a project, focusing on how to better the community of Walpole. Currently, Project Based Learning is a pilot program among seventh grade student volunteers.

Elizabeth Smith, a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher at JMS, participates in the program and was paired with student Scotty Cameron, a 7th grade student at JMS. With technology, the students are able to work on a project at home as well as at school. Scotty is working on a guide that will specify which trails are good for certain groups of people and help determine which trail they should use for different purposes, such as hiking and biking.

“We utilize e-mail and a variety of Google resources like Google Docs and Google Forms to communicate,” said Smith.

Scotty hopes that the project will continue to help people even after he has graduated out of the program. “[The project] doesn’t exactly end at the end of the year,” said Scotty.

Scotty spoke highly of the program and hopes to improve the community of Walpole. “I enjoyed working with my advisor Ms. Smith and getting to know more about the trails and getting to meet Mr. Gary Riggott, the head of the Walpole Trails Committee, who has a similar interest as me involving the trails,” said Scotty.

Technology teacher at JMS, Anne Marie Wyman, is an advisor to another student in the program. Her student is working on a project in which characters from other languages would be added to a standard United States keyboard to make it easier for bilingual students to type and easier for students who are learning a new language to type papers.

“About 20% of students at Johnson Middle School are either fluent in another language or almost fluent in another language,” said Wyman based off a recent survey in her classroom.

Relationships between staff and students were also strengthened as they would meet during an extension block each cycle. “Working with the kids was probably my favorite part,” said Wyman.

Students, staff, and family will come together on June 13 at the Johnson Middle School Gym to see students present their projects that they have been working on throughout the year.

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