Over the last four days, I’ve been working with teachers, industry partners, administrators, and even a few other consultants on conceptualizing projects for Health Leadership High School and Tech Leadership High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. These innovative state of New Mexico charter schools are spin-off schools from the highly successful ACE Leadership High School, and each support their students using a “three pillar” model that weaves Learning By Doing with 360 Degree Student Support and strong Community Engagement. What a difference it made to have those industry partners in the room! I come away from it thinking that it’s time to add another “P” to the “5 Ps.”
In the video ACE Leadership made a few years ago, I made the comment that “project-based learning at ACE Leadership is not wall-to-wall PBL, it’s PBL without walls.” That was by design, but it took industry partners at these sessions to really help us to understand the way the community can support the teachers in their design of authentic and relevant learning experiences. So often we think of the learning experience as being confined to the classroom, or of a rare field trip supplementing the classroom experience. When we think of community engagement, we therefore think of bring industry partners into the classroom, where they play by our rules, and our rubrics. But that robs students of a completely different kind of experience with the industry partners, and with the PLACES those partners work.
Yes, you probably guessed that the new “P” stands for PLACE. What a difference it makes if your project about the zoo actually takes PLACE at the zoo, and not just with one field trip. What a difference if your project to improve a local park, actually takes PLACE at the local park, interacting with city park workers in their environment and learning what that means to them, and to the project. Every good question has a context, and I can think of no better way to signal that context to students than to start putting the PLACE in your questions. Don’t just drive them into the inquiry, drive them to the PLACE where that inquiry can best take PLACE!