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  • Accreditation and recognition by governments of France, Spain, and China

  • Curricula guided by educational standards and benchmarks of France, Spain, China, and the United States

  • Maximum class size of 20 students

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Lower School Director's Blog

From Fairy Tales to Finding Balance: Project-Based Learning in the Lower School

How many of you ask your child, “What did you learn at school today?” 

I bet a common answer is, “Nothing.”  

Let me suggest a new approach. Tomorrow ask your child to tell you about what they have been doing for their Project-based learning (PBL). Project-based learning is a teaching method in which students actively explore real-world problems, a complex question, or challenge over an extended period of time to gain deep knowledge and skills.  

For first grade parents, ask your child to tell you how plants and animals are alike. This should lead to your child talking about things that are living. This will lead to your next question about the difference between living and non-living things. Finally, ask them to tell you how they have grouped these things in the classroom. 

Second graders should be able to tell you a lot about fairy tales. What makes a story a fairy tale? What is a twisted fairy tale? How are regular fairy tales and twisted fairy tales alike and how are they different. Have your child share his/her favorite fairy tale. Hopefully, your child will tell you about the twisted fairy tale of his/her own creation. If you’re really lucky, you will get to read it!

 

How do we end hunger? This is the big concept being studied by third graders. They have been conducting surveys of students in the lunchroom about why they throw away food. They visited the Grant Street Outreach where they prepared and served food to homeless people. Your third grader has become very aware of the issues surrounding hunger and probably has some great ideas to share with you.  

Have you ever had the feeling your life is out of balance? When you examine your practices you discover changes that have already happened or need to happen to restore that balance. Welcome to the fourth grade PBL unit. They are exploring how to maintain balance. They are examining ecosystems, culture, government, and the human/environment interaction. Balance is critical for all these systems to function in harmony with the rest of the world.  

Project-based learning provides your child with a way of thinking that is based on questioning. It does not have simple yes or no answers. Instead, there can be many answers to one question, which in turn leads to more questions. This type of learning provides knowledge that is transferable to other areas and is retained.  So the next time your child tells you he/she learned “nothing” at school, have him/her tell you about living vs non-living creatures, fractured fairy tales, hunger, or balance. I guarantee your conversation will be rich! 

 

To learn more about PBL, take a look at the following resources:

  • Project-based learning

Lower School Director

Beth Cavanaugh

Beth Cavanaugh

Lower School Division Director, English Teacher
Beth Cavanaugh holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Kansas State University, a Master of Arts in education from Washburn University and an Education Specialist degree in leadership from the University of Northern Colorado. She has taught elementary and middle school grades in Kansas, Illinois and Colorado since 1983. Before joining the ISDenver community in 2016, Beth was teaching in Idaho Springs, Colorado.