Boise elementary switches to new way of learning

When Boise’s Adams Elementary School students return from summer break, they will be greeted with a new way to learn.

After five months of researching, training and testing, all 13 teachers will add project-based learning to their repertoire.

Principal Jason Adams said the staff is doing what’s best for kids.

“As educators, we want to remain fresh and innovative,” he said. “This doesn’t change our existing teaching strategies.”

Project-based learning is about collaboration. Students work together on projects, instead of working alone on textbook assignments.

Fourth-grade teacher Siimone Mansfield applied this learning style in her classroom last year. She believes this technique engages kids in real life experiences.

Siimone Mansfield

“Your first time can be scary, but it’s worth it to see the kids so involved with their learning,” she said.

For example, Mansfield took her lesson on animal species that live in different biomes and turned it into a project. The kids worked together and researched and solved why a mountain lion would leave a biome in the Boise Foothills and go into a neighborhood.

The fourth graders eventually created a mountain lion trap and presented their research to the class.

“The kids get to lead a lot of the discussion and inquire the path of learning,” Mansfield said. “The project became a life of its own.”

Students will take part in outdoor field trips (walking distance from the school) and they will complete projects in the schools new STEM lab.

“We want to get kids involved in the community and have more engaged learners,” Mansfield said.

Adams experienced project-based learning while working as an assistant principal at Boise High. For the past five years, high school students have presented projects during a student-run Sustainability Summit.

Jason Adams

“The summit was so powerful,” Adams said. “Why not start now at a young age.”

Teachers experimented with project-based learning this summer in training courses through Educurious. Staff also took a tour of One Stone to get an idea how projects are presented. Teachers will take part in more trainings throughout the school year.

“Project-based learning is going to be an evolving piece in our building,” Adams said.

Some parents have been introduced to project-based learning, while others will get more details during an open house in the fall.

“I’m excited to see higher levels of engagement happen on campus,” Adams said.

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