Project Based Learning
Also known as "PBL"

Spotlight: PBL at Rhodes


By Mrs. Gloria Chavez, EnglishMrs. Coltrin & Mrs. Chavez Language Arts (ELA) teacher on 10/27/18

Rhodes Jr. High 8th grade RTS placed third in the Mesa Arts Center’s “Dia de Los Muertos” altar competition. To say we are proud is an understatement. However, I would like to share where the true pride and joy is focused...

Rhodes is at the forefront of changing how we educate kids. This is true Project Based Learning (PBL). We as teachers, recognized that so many of our students have suffered traumatic and heart wrenching loss in their young lives. If not processed, it’s buried and can manifest in so many problem behaviors. We built a learning project around this issue, connecting it to the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos, and the altar competition. Social Studies teachers taught the history of the celebration dating back to Mesoamerica. Our drama/stagecraft teacher and CTE teacher taught the art and representation of the various parts of the “Ofrenda.” ELA teachers, myself included, taught an Honor Writing lesson where students had a choice of writing about a deceased loved one, or honoring their seven generations, an Iroquois cultural belief. They had a choice of three formats; narrative, letter, or poem. Finally, our science teachers taught the science of dying and what happens scientifically when someone dies.

I have spent the last two weeks helping kids write, and more importantly, helping them process the loss in their lives. Loss wasn’t always about death, but about parents and family they have never known, who are incarcerated, or addicted. There is both heartache and appreciation in their writing voice. I have not graded this assignment based on writing conventions, but rather on the expression of their sentiments. I have cried openly with students, consoled their grief, hugged many, and affirmed their resilience and resolve to move beyond their trauma.

Our Ofrenda was both a teaching Ofrenda, explaining the significance of each aspect, as well as an honoring of our loved ones through the student writing that is displayed. Our 7th grade teams also had similar cultural learning projects. This learning goes far beyond all of our academic content and standards. Social Emotional Learning and Culturally Relevant Teaching was at the heart of this project and transcends anything a single standardized test can ever measure! 

What is Project Based Learning?

PBL 8 essential elements