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Growing As Educators

As we hit the halfway mark of our academic year, our faculty took an in-service day to connect, share, and learn. Along with teachers from Emerald Mountain School, an independent, K-8 school in downtown Steamboat Springs, faculty explored Project-Based Learning and intentional rubric construction.

Project-Based Learning (PBL) occurs when students spend extended periods of time exploring and solving unique and complex (skill-appropriate) real-world challenges. Students are tasked with producing a presentation or product that displays their solution. The deep level at which students are required to investigate each problem makes the solution personal. As a result, students cultivate their innate curiosity, critical thinking, communication, and creativity. Students are motivated by a driving question that prompts, without dictating, the project’s trajectory. 

Many of the Steamboat Mountain School classrooms are already using the PBL methodology to convey complex topics. For example, Ms. Durkan who teaches AP Environmental Science uses her Global Information Systems (GIS) unit to solve various pollution problems found in Steamboat Springs, CO.  Students work with community members to dive into the problem, use simple GIS mapping, and SketchUp software to explore solutions, and ultimately propose changes to our community. Not only are these students walking away with the practical application of two computer mapping programs but also presentation skills, professionalism, interview experience, and an understanding of solar panels, waste reduction strategies, and wastewater treatment.  

So, how do we ensure we cover foundational skills like statistics and grammar, college preparation, and rigorous academic standards? The afternoon portion of our in-service day was spent sharing tips, tricks, and fresh ideas on how to include students further in developing rubrics. Our faculty use creative and purposeful rubrics based on student input, college preparation academic standards, and school philosophy. Inclusive rubric construction means students understand the components of the rubric, consider the rubric throughout the project and not just at the beginning, and agree with and understand the reason for the final grade.

Our in-service day was productive and thought-provoking for all our teachers and it is opportunities like these that encourage our faculty to continue to grow as educators in our dynamic world. “I really enjoyed collaborating with teachers from Emerald Mountain School to discuss rubrics and the ways in which they can make teaching and learning more focused and intentional,” says Senior English Teacher, Mr. Morse. “Our in-service days give us great opportunities to step back and consider the larger issues in education so we can best serve our students.”

We are so grateful for our considerate and brilliant faculty and staff who make Steamboat Mountain School what it is and will be. Check back soon for a deeper look at PBL in practice.