Project-based learning takeaways: Emerald High School

Brad NicklesEmerald High School Principal Brad Nickles discusses what he and his team learned at TransformSC’s Project-Based Learning Institute.  Emerald High School is a member of TransformSC’s statewide innovation network.

At Emerald High School, we’re in year four of our project-based learning implementation without a purchased program, meaning we’re doing it with no funding. Attending TransformSC’s Project-Based Learning Institute on Jan. 24 was the best PBL professional development we’ve had the opportunity to attend in the state.  The most powerful insights and best learning opportunities are those that come from the people who are actually doing the work.

I enjoyed hearing the success stories shared by the presenters and seeing the excitement and passion in their work with PBL.  My favorite part of the institute was the keynote and conversation with BIE National Faculty Member Suzie Boss.  She explained the base elements of a gold-standard PBL program in a way that beginners would understand but also illustrated the impact PBL has on purposefully teaching the critical soft skills identified in the South Carolina Profile of the Graduate, something that really resonates with those of us experienced in PBL.

At Emerald High, we’re currently participating in a book study on Setting The Standard for Project Based Learning, which Suzie Boss is one of the authors.  Having the opportunity to hear her insight into PBL and the elements of the best projects was invaluable information for our teachers.

I am so excited about the momentum that PBL is gaining in our state.  We are finally teaching content through instructional delivery that is based on how our students will have to function in the real world.  PBL is the best way to teach the content in a manner that simulates the work world and provides educators with the opportunity to teach skills that are vital for our students to be college and career ready when they leave us.

TransformSC is doing wonderful work and is making great strides in truly transforming education in our great state.  I am excited to be a part of TransformSC and cannot wait until the next PBL professional development opportunity.

At Emerald, we are seeking out as much professional development regarding PBL as possible.  Our teachers have seen the level of student engagement increase and understand the value PBL provides the students.  We’re happy to share our experience with anyone who is interested and we’d love to be able to help other schools that are looking to bring PBL into their classrooms.