by Suzie Boss
For anyone who thinks that project-based learning won’t work in their community, Stephen Ritz is here to tell you otherwise. His rousing keynote address on the first day of the PBL World global conference in Napa, Calif., was all about finding and nurturing opportunities, even in the most unlikely places.
Ritz is founder of Green Bronx Machine, a project that teaches students they can “live, learn, and earn” healthy lives without having to leave their Bronx, New York, neighborhood—the poorest Congressional District in the United States. Students grow and sell tons of fresh produce through enterprises that they manage, learning academic content and workplace skills while transforming their own community. They also install green roofs and vertical gardens, creating a new wave of jobs in the sustainability sector. Says Ritz, a longtime educator, “I love teaching kids to count. But teaching them what counts is much more exciting.”
Watch Ritz tell more about the backstory of his project in this TED talk. Follow him on Twitter @greenbxmachine.
PBL World, sponsored by the Buck Institute for Education, has attracted some 600 teachers and school leaders from 42 states, 13 countries, and six continents this year. Participants are taking part in intensive, hands-on workshops, learning PBL strategies by putting them to use. Throughout the week, participants will develop project plans and apply thinking strategies that they can use in the classroom.
New this year are academies focusing on developing projects aligned to the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts, plus a slate of specialized workshops focusing on everything from critical thinking to quantitative reasoning.
Connect from Afar
Those who can’t make it to PBL World can join the five-day event virtually. Here are a few ways to connect:
Get Inspired by Students
Students from Katherine Smith School in San Jose, Calif., set just the right tone for the conference with a kickoff skit about the essential elements of Project Based Learning. Watch a recording of “The Seven PBL Dwarfs”.
Myla Lee (@MyTLee3), a member of the BIE National Faculty, Tweeted this response after watching the students: “#PBLWorld entry event focuses us why we are here. THE STUDENTS. Thank you @KSmithSchool for setting the mindset.”