K. Smith "In the News"

School-Wide PBL Exhibitions: Not Just for Students

Each year in the spring, like most schools around this country, we prepare for and take "the test." Some traditional schools see this as the end goal, the pinnacle of the year, but at my school we believe there is an even more important event that happens in May: Exhibition Night! [Read more...]

Effective PD for Project Based Learning

Project-based learning is one of the best ways to teach students 21st century skills. It promotes deeper engagement in the content while also teaching skills such as communication, collaboration and teamwork. But a good PBL program only works if the school or district invests in targeted, sustained professional development.

Our school, Katherine Smith Elementary School in California adopted a PBL program six years ago. It was a massive overhaul for us. The program focuses on six principles: Think, Learn, Work, Communicate, Collaborate and Contribute. [Read more]

A Year in Review: High Quality Project Based Learning

Projects are an easy way to engage students in authentic challenges but delivering all of possible benefits requires well constructed, sustained and supported experiences. Earlier this year, a new Framework for High Quality Project Based Learning (HQPBL) was developed to help teachers better prepare young people for contribution in the innovation economy.

As we look back, it is evident that project-based learning not only increases student engagement, it helps students develop academic and social and emotional skills for life and careers.

Over the year, we visited 8 schools where students are having HQPBL experiences, here is what we discovered:

HQPBL Case Study: Katherine Smith School. Over seven years ago, Aaron Brengard came to serve as principal of Katherine Smith Elementary, a 55-year-old Title I school within San Jose's Evergreen School District. Despite its location in Silicon Valley, the school seemed a world apart from the region recognized globally for entrepreneurship and innovation.

From the very beginning of his tenure, Brengard championed a school redesign that would better prepare students for the real world. The lessons learned from this journey toward High Quality Project Based Learning (HQPBL) remain relevant, as they could potentially be applied to public schools across America (Read Case Study).

What 100 School Visits Taught Us This Year

We visited more than 100 schools this year. About half were new schools (in the last 20 years) and the other half were (at least partially) transformed. Most are good early next-gen examples of personalized and competency-based learning. They were in every corner of the country and ranged from tiny rural schools in Idaho to big schools in Chicago (and a few in Europe and Asia). As a year-end reflection, we identified 10 lessons. [read more]

South Bay Students: Ready for Anything
Students at Katherine R. Smith Elementary school in San Jose are using class projects to show they're "Ready for Anything."

An exhibition by the same name has taken on a special meaning in the wake of California's devastating wildfires. [read more]

Project-Based Schools Close Silicon Valley Gaps

Seven miles south of downtown San Jose are some of the lowest income neighborhoods in the Bay Area. Three schools serving this diverse area of the Evergreen School District (@EvergreenESD) combine personalized and project-based learning to succeed in high school, college and work.

Members of the New Tech Network, Bulldog Tech, Lobo School of Innovation, and Katherine Smith Elementary School are bright spots for families and students in San Jose that may not otherwise have access to technology, integrated challenges, and strong supports. [read more]

Tynker: Video Games in Ancient Greece: A Project-Based Learning Success Story

As they walk around their school, Katherine Smith students are constantly reminded that they are expected to work hard and succeed. Katherine Smith Elementary School, a Title I School in San Jose, CA with 82% of students on free or reduced lunch and 61% of students learning English as a second language, has adopted the motto, "We are college bound." Within the past few years, they have completely reimagined their curriculum with a focus on project-based learning (PBL) in order to prepare students with the skills they will need to succeed in college and in life. [read more]