Greater Latrobe high school eyes project-based learning classes
Greater Latrobe Senior High School students will learn two skill sets at once in a pair of proposed mash-up courses with a cross-curricular reach.
The school board on Tuesday will consider adding six courses for the 2019-20 school year — including “Astronomy With English” and “Current Issues With Statistics,” each open to juniors and seniors.
In the former class, which is worth one credit each in science and English, students will learn about the movements of celestial bodies while being challenged to construct a related device — such as a sextant, sundial or telescope.
“Students will make observations and then build the instruments that are used to make those observations,” science teacher Jason Brandt said. He explained they’ll document their projects during the English element of the course, guided by instructor Renee Stallings.
“They’ll be able to write manuals, and they’ll be able to do how-to videos,” Brandt told the school board at its April committee meeting.
As the yearlong course unfolds, he said, it will “gradually give the students more freedom so that, by the fourth quarter, they’re going to develop their own interdisciplinary, independent project.”
Social studies instructor Bob Saveikis and math teacher Matt Snyder similarly will join forces for a one credit course where students will study “current news and controversial issues of the day” while exploring “how statistics are gathered and used for the purposes of description and persuasion.”
“In all honesty, it’s a perfect blend of both,” Saveikis said. “We’re excited about the possibilities.”
The proposed courses represent the district’s first use of a project-based learning approach. They were inspired by a recent visit to High Tech High — a network of charter schools in San Diego County, Calif., that encourage students to engage in individual projects involving multiple disciplines.
“This is our first taste of it,” said Jon Mains, 11th- and 12th-grade principal at the senior high. “Our teachers are getting us off the ground. They’ll spend time this summer coming up with a project they want their kids to work on.”
As developed in San Diego, he said, “The concept is hands-on, where students are doing service projects and working with the community to solve problems.
“We’re always looking to partner with someone in the community, an employer or whoever it may be. When you look at the skills employers need in 2020 and beyond, it’s critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving. Those are the skills our student will receive in these classes.”
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .