Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning (PBL)
Learning Through Engagement and Challenge

In the PBL Lab, we offer courses that engage students in collaborative approaches to solving common problems in our community and broader society.  Students sign up for a PBL Challenge just as they would for a course.  In addition to the Habits of Heart, Work, and Mind students who engage in PBL Challenges learn to work together, in order to explore and develop solutions to contemporary challenges faced by youth and our community.

The components of the PBL Lab include:

The PBL Director:  The Director coordinates program components, provides guidance in connecting teachers, students and community partners, develops resources, coordinates professional development and is the direct contact to the PBL advisory board.

The Advisory Board: Industry, education and research experts advise the director and RU administration on goals, vision, research methods, real world needs and challenge bank development. 

The Teacher as Lead Partner:  The Lead Partner assists in the development of challenges, facilitates and guides a student team, and assists through coordinating the team’s assessment panel. 

The Team:  Each collaborative team is made up of a group of students with a teacher as a lead partner.  The team works through a solution-seeking process to tackle a contemporary challenge.

The Lab Space: A space that mirrors a professional environment where hands-on, applied problem solving blends with technology and ideas-rich discussion. 

The PBL Solution-Seeking Process:

  • Interpret the challenge: begin to define the problem you are solving
  • Plan: determine research proposal, group roles and responsibilities, and a community engagement plan
  • Research: deepen your understanding of the challenge and its context
  • Reflect and Revise: refine your interpretation of the problem; revise the plans as needed
  • Collaborate: work as a team to seek a solution to the problem you have defined
  • Reflect and Revise: This should be ongoing
  • Synthesize and Apply:  test your solutions. 
  • Publicly demonstrate your learning.
  • Elicit feedback from community partners

2021-22 Project Based Learning Challenges

Racial Justice: How can we advocate for and create a more equitable community?
(English/ Social Studies standards)

Team Leaders: Dana Decker and Emily Therrien

We formed a Racial Justice Project Based-Learning (PBL) class in 2018 following calls from scholars to meet the needs of young BIPOC students in our building, and to better educate all community members on issues of racial justice.

Throughout the past three years, Racial Justice PBL students have focused on a variety of activities, including teaching lesson plans in the elementary schools for classrooms K-6, creating lesson plans within our high school advisories, creating the RU Racial Justice Magazine, creating a website for outreach/resources and educating ourselves through a variety of books around white supremacy and systematic racism. Our learning continues as we continue to grow. We are making Randolph Union Middle / high school a safe place for everyone with the education needed for dialogue.

Career Pathways: This PBL challenge will appeal to students interested in careers in social justice, community organizing, social work, political science, history, and education.

Food Systems: How do we create community through food? (English standards)

Team Leader: Jamie Connor ("JK")

The Vermont Department of Health recently released a simple way to understand chronic disease in VT: 3-4-50. 3 behaviors lead to 4 diseases that result in 50% of deaths in the state. Many of these conditions are rooted in what we eat, so what do we do about all of this?

In this PBL, students explore their individual roles in their home, school, community, state, national and world food systems. Our first task is to better understand our own relationship with food in order to build an active class community that works to tackle food related issues - big (how can we help starving populations?) and small (should our school have vending machines?).

Career Pathways: This PBL Challenge will appeal to those students interested in career fields such as sustainable agriculture, food service, supply chain management, economics, political science, biology, and nutrition.

Mindfulness and Movement Exploration: How can we improve our mental and physical wellness (Physical Education standards)

Team Leader: Ms Woolf

This PBL will explore the ways in which an active lifestyle, good nutrition, mindfulness, and a sense of purpose can all help a person to live a healthy life. Students will engage in journaling, goal setting, weight-bearing exercise, yoga, outdoor activities and more.

Community partners will help students understand the roles that these elements play in their lives and expose students to a variety of paths to self-care and wellness.

Career Pathways: This PBL Challenge will appeal to those students interested in career fields such as physical education, physical training, physical therapy, mindfulness, nutrition, kinesthetics, and others.

Digital Music Performance: How can technology democratize music production? (Music

Team Leader: Mr. Exler

In Digital Music Performance, students will learn how to compose, record, and produce music on a computer. In this PBL, we work closely with Logic Pro X, a digital audio workstation that's used by many professional musicians. Through hands-on learning, students will learn how to use this program to edit audio files.

During this course, students will learn a lot about Logic Pro X, but they will also learn the basics of songwriting. We will all learn rudimentary keyboard skills, and the music theory necessary to write compelling chord progressions and melodies. We will then be synthesizing this knowledge to write and record original music.

Career Pathways: This PBL Challenge will help prepare students for almost any career in communications requiring content creation skills and teamwork such as video editing, web design, digital photography, theater, copywriting, live sound, and broadcast production.

Interact "We Serve" - Helping our community and world receive kindness and justice (English Standards)

Lead Partner: Samantha Holmberg
We all have the power to enact positive social change, no matter what our individual situations may be. Using the passions of the class members, students will take on leadership roles to plan events and community service while working with members of local businesses, local services, and our school. Students also engage in examining world news and why causes are important. They share their time, energy, kindness, and knowledge to help the RU community and the world. We are working on team building right now and soon we will embark on completing several volunteer projects.

Career Pathways: This course will appeal to students interested in career fields such as social work, general management, international affairs, political science, and business, as well as a wide variety of career placements in non-governmental organizations.