project-based learning brings John Adams students together


If you were to walk around John Adams Middle School, you would notice the temporary student art installations.

All vary in size, design, materials and colors, but the projects have something in common: they identify all the issues and address them with a central message.

“It was kind of like our goal behind it all, to come together and have a positive impact,” said professor of industrial technology Jessica Kingston.

Kingston and Anne Hansen, an art teacher, got together last year to plan a dance and saw their students light up. Seeing that something was missing at school, the two decided to combine their subjects.

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To do this, they used a teaching method called project-based learning. (PBL)

“Project-based learning begins with the hard problem and ends with students creating a public product,” Hansen said. “As an art teacher, public products is something in my wheelhouse; and we have great ideas, but we needed the art room and the industrial technology room to bring some of these to life. things.”

Students in either class first had to acquire basic skills and standards in art and industrial technology. The two teachers then assigned groups to create their project.

Eighth grader Mariah Wurtzel, with a little help from industrial technology teacher Jessica Kingston, installs her project-based learning product on one of the walls at John Adams Middle School.

Abby Koch

The class, which lasts one semester, focuses on a mini and a major “PBL cycle”. The PBL Mini Cycle was inspired by an email from Superintendent Pat Hamiltonasking teachers what matters to them, the students and the community and how they can reflect this on a daily basis.

Using this core message, a PBL experience was created for students. The desired outcome was for students to create public products that promote what students believe is important to John Adams.

Once the groups selected a difficult problem, they had to work on researching and developing an authentic product for each member.

“The focus on sticking to something that we felt was extremely valuable to us and to them. If you stick with that and guide them, they can get to where we want them to be.” they go,” Hansen said.

Each of the issues related to kindness, gratitude, positive communication, community, or appreciation. The other teams also provided peer review to develop products.

“I was really overwhelmed by the amount of deep thinking and quality eighth graders had,” Hansen said.


Eighth graders Ava Benson and Claire Sewell pose with their “pocket of kindness”, which they created as a project-based learning product. The pocket is on display at John Adams Middle School.

Abby Koch

Ava Benson and Claire Sewell created a “kindness pouch” for their product. The pocket, designed to look like a back pocket on a pair of jeans, is an interactive wall piece where individuals can pull out slips of paper and be challenged to do acts of kindness.

“We thought you had a little slip inside, and the slip would be like you took something out of your pocket,” Benson said.

“We’re going to try to put one in each of the schools in the district so (they can) be nicer,” Sewell said. “What we have in mind is to email principals and see what colors they want and maybe do the school colors.”

The two students saw classmates approach the pocket and look inside. Benson said she’s even seen some of them taking cuteness slides.

Noticing that there wasn’t much Riverhawk decoration on the walls, Emma Meyer and Mariah Wurtzel wanted to remedy this with a sign of school spirit as a product.

“We decided to do this because we just wanted to bring everyone together for more spirit,” Meyer said.

The sign is made up of two pieces, one being the mascot logo and the other is stylized to say “Riverhawks”. Their product is now displayed proudly for the school to see.

“We had to learn how to carve out the signs and the letters, and then making the mascot is a bit difficult to figure out,” Meyer said.

Nadia Jackson and Amara Servantz created products to show their appreciation for some unsung heroes: John Adams’ guard team.

“We felt they weren’t appreciated enough because no one really thanks them for all they do,” Servantz said.


The John Adams Middle School Guardian Appreciation products that eighth graders Nadia Jackson and Amara Servantz made.


The two eighth-graders made framed signs with the names of the guardians and were decorated with bright colors. One of the custodians was lucky enough to see the appreciation products during a walk through the gallery in late October.

“(The guard) grabbed the sign, and then we read him the letter that we wrote, and then gave him the sign,” Jackson said.

The next step is to tackle a major PBL cycle, where students don’t necessarily have to make a bigger product, but need to think about how to make a deeper impact.


Eighth grader Emma Meyer installs her project-based learning product on one of the walls at John Adams Middle School.

Abby Koch

Kingston said she hopes students take away two ideas from PBL: being able to work with other people and having an impact in the community.

“They can lead something and have an impact, even if it’s a person, a group or a whole school. I think that’s, for me, what I hope that they’ll push forward,” Kingston said.

Abby covers education and entertainment for the Globe Gazette. Follow her on Twitter at @MkayAbby. Email him at [email protected]


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