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The Mechanics of Movement: Igniting Student Curiosity through Project-Based Learning

The Mechanics of Movement: Igniting Student Curiosity through Project-Based Learning

Josh Morris, our dedicated Science Instructional Specialist at Eagle Rock School, is on a mission to ignite students' curiosity and enthusiasm for understanding the world around them. With over two decades of high school science teaching under his belt, Josh ventured to Eagle Rock in search of a more diverse student and staff population. What he found at this innovative institution was the perfect environment to implement his passion for project-based learning (PBL).

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning (PBL) is a teaching and learning approach that focuses on providing students with the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills through active, hands-on experiences and collaborative projects. In PBL, students work on real-world problems or challenges that require them to investigate, analyze, and solve complex issues. This approach is designed to engage students in an active and meaningful way. 

Here are some key characteristics of project-based learning:

  • Real-World Relevance

  • Inquiry and Investigation

  • Active Learning

  • Autonomy and Responsibility

  • Interdisciplinary

  • Assessment and Feedback

  • Presentation and Communication

  • Reflection

PBL in Action - The Mechanics of Movement Class

At Eagle Rock, project-based learning takes center stage. The hallmark of PBL is the way topics and projects kick off with a driving question. These questions serve as the foundation for "enduring understandings," a concept that seeks to answer the question: "What should students remember and understand ten years from now?"

Josh currently teaches a class known as the “Mechanics of Movement." In this class, students are exposed to hands-on experiences in creating healthy life choices, with a science twist. A typical class period might involve students participating in yoga, weight training, or walking and asking intentional questions and making observations about how their bodies are involved in the processes. Because the course is project-based, students make these observations with the goal of nailing down their final project for the end-of-trimester Presentation of Learning (POL). 

Some examples of student questions that lead to larger projects:

  • How long can I hold my favorite yoga pose?

  • How many reps can I do of my weightlifting routine before I am fatigued?

  • Do my physical therapy exercises for my injured ankle actually increase my flexibility?

One of Josh's core beliefs is that content without purpose is simply wasted time. He views content as the vehicle for what comes next. It could be a software tool, data collection, or practical application knowledge in real-life situations. The ultimate goal is for students to create something tangible by the end of the project. In his class, this means creating an infomercial about a workout they design. It's about blending content-based knowledge with practical application.

Feedback and Outcomes of PBL

The feedback from students regarding project-based learning has been overwhelmingly positive. They appreciate the shift from busywork of answering questions from a textbook or completing a worksheet to competency-based, standards-driven assignments. One key aspect is the feedback loops that Josh and other educators provide on drafts, enabling students to fine-tune their work and grasp the process of learning better.

A highlight at Eagle Rock is the "Presentations of Learning" (POL), where students get excited about showcasing their trimester-long projects. PBL has led to increased flexibility, allowing students to focus more on skill development and hands-on learning. It aligns perfectly with Eagle Rock's philosophy of the "10 commitments," encouraging creative problem-solving and real-world application of knowledge.

In conclusion, with educators like Josh Morris championing project-based learning at Eagle Rock School, students are not only gaining academic knowledge but also the skills and confidence to tackle real-world challenges. PBL fosters a deeper understanding of content, as it's embedded in a context that's engaging and immediately applicable. Josh's passion for teaching through projects is making a significant impact on the students and community at Eagle Rock, empowering them to become lifelong learners and creative problem solvers.