Students in the "Holy Cow" food truck PBL group

BW education faculty and students teamed up with the Academy of St. Adalbert to bring school subjects to life through applied learning.

School of Education Supports New Project-Based Learning Initiative in the Community

April 25, 2016

Students in the "Holy Cow" food truck PBL groupBuilding a food truck business from the ground up, writing books on occupations and Ohio, fighting world hunger and pitching an invention, “Shark Tank” style, were among the ways K-8 students at the Academy of St. Adalbert in Berea brought school concepts to life this year with the support of the Baldwin Wallace University School of Education.

More than 300 students, parents and members of the BW community attended the recent Celebration of Learning at BW’s Center for Innovation & Growth (CIG), culminating the year-long, BW- St. Adalbert Project-Based Learning (PBL) partnership.

Adding real-life context to curriculum

Crowd at BW's CIG for St. Adalbert PBL celebration“Project-Based Learning brings real-life context to curriculum,” said Dr. Susan Finelli, BW educational technology coordinator, who served as co-facilitator on the partnership along with Dr. Chad Malcolm, BW early childhood coordinator. “With PBL, students take greater responsibility for their learning and participate in projects that more closely model the way they will work in their adult lives.”

St. Adalbert Principal Susan Herman said the opportunity for students to collaborate with professionals beyond the school's walls added to the experience. "As the students progressed in their projects, their excitement grew. There was a genuine buzz in the air leading up to the Celebration of Learning.  Everyone was excited to share their hard work."

The collaboration provided after-school professional development for the St. Adalbert’s faculty in PBL concepts throughout the 2015-16 school year. The University also assigned a BW MAEd Leadership in Technology student intern to provide additional support as a “tech coach.” The results were impressive. 

Applied learning goes entrepreneurial

Students in grades 5-8 worked in small groups on food truck projects, each choosing a cuisine, from “Holy Cow” hamburgers, to soul food, kabobs and Mexican. Then, group members created the business, step by step, applying knowledge of math, science, geography, business, art, technology and more.

Tasks included researching the geographic origin of their cuisine, designing a trifold menu complete with nutritional information, analyzing recipes and visiting grocery stores to price supplies, creating a business budget, and developing marketing materials and a social media plan. Students also took a field trip to BW’s Biology Department to learn about sustainability from Dr. Natalie Barrett.

Hands-on with inventions, careers, Ohio and hunger

The ABCs of Ohio was one of the projectsThe 2nd and 3rd grades focused on inventions, challenging students to come up with an idea to improve a product. They then created prototypes, as well as promotional videos. For their culminating entrepreneurial pitch, they presented to a panel of five ‘sharks’ including BW President Robert Helmer.

Members of the Berea community shared their career paths with Kindergarteners as part of their project on occupations, while fourth-graders brought required curriculum on Ohio to life by writing their own ABC’s of Ohio books.

Finally, first-graders took on world hunger, writing to pen pals at a school in Kenya, and launching their own “Read to Feed” fundraising program to benefit the Heifer International hunger and poverty relief program. By collecting pledges for each book they read, the students contribute more than $3,000 to Heifer's "teach a man to fish" mission which funds farm animals that provide families with food and reliable income from agricultural products such as milk and eggs.

“I couldn’t be more proud of all the hard work and learning my students put into this experience,” said first grade teacher, Amy Stephens. “It just goes to show that they may be little but they can make a big difference in the world.”

Win-win partnership

Students present projects at CIG celebrationThe PBL initiative at St. Adalbert is one example of the “mutually beneficial partnerships” that BW’s School of Education continues to forge with school districts around Northeast Ohio.

“The schools support our students as they gain classroom experience, but we start our conversations with district partners by asking, ‘What do you need?’,’” said Dr. Karen Kaye, Dean of BW’s School of Education. “This kind of collaboration keeps us real, keeps our programs highly relevant and exposes our students to a broader array of classroom approaches.”