(Re)igniting their spark through project-based learning
Building a neuroscience-driven scaffold around and through project-based learning.
Cajal Academy’s individualized programs, personalized strategies and Body-Informed Learning come together through our own project-based learning (“PBL”) framework. This modified approach is adapted from the foundational work of the Buck Institute for Education, who for the last 30 years have been pioneering this cross-disciplinary, skill-focused educational approach as an effective model for children of all backgrounds and abilities.
In project-based learning, the presentation of curriculum and learning experience is organized through the process of collaborating with one’s peers to develop a response to a “Driving Question” that is framed in such a way as to demand higher order critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills. This goes well beyond the more traditional practice of asking students to integrate their learnings into a defined, culminating project. In PBL, students are empowered to design key elements of their own learning process, from developing a list of critical “Need to Knows” in order to develop their response to an open-ended questions, to developing a game plan to acquire that information and determining for themselves what form the ultimate manifestation of that knowledge will take. Exciting research indicates the tremendous academic benefits of taking this approach, which better matches to our real-world experiences in the 21st century, and project-based learning is now being increasingly embraced in public, private and charter school environments across the country.
At Cajal Academy, we are modifying traditional PBL approaches in the following ways:
We individualize instruction within each element of a project to allow each child to access their strengths while providing customized support in those elements that threaten to hold them back;
We support the problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills that are at the center of a traditional PBL approach with the foundational therapeutic and neurophsyiological work required to build up students’ capacity to excel in these complex, higher-order processes;
We leverage the group and academic focuses of project-based learning as authentic laboratories in which to coach each child in personalized strategies for self-monitoring, self-managing and self-advocating for their needs;
We fluidly regroup within and across our cohort to ensure that every child has the type and level of support that is best calculated for their particularized needs with respect to each step in the project, thus allowing highly-asynchronous learners both the runway and the support that they need to develop their full potential;
We leverage the PBL framework’s focus on skill development to integrate individualized curriculum needs across all six pillars of our Whole Human Education; and
We accelerate the learning process while minimizing interference from each learner’s sensory, motor and musculoskelatal needs, through our Body-Informed Learning.
Together, this approach adds up to an integrated curricular approach that better aligns to children’s real world experiences, with a focus on those skills that are most important to seizing the promise and opportunities for a fulfilling career and life-lived experience in the 21st century, including collaboration, critical thinking, self-directed learning and self-regulation.
Find out more about project-based learning, and how schools around the country are using it to transform learning outcomes and improve educational equity.