Typical educational approaches may not engage students in a way that sets them up for long term success. At Youth Solutions, we are committed to Project Based Learning (PBL) because it works. PBL not only engages the most disengaged students, it improves attitudes towards learning because the outcome of the assignment leaves students with skills that set them up for success in school and in life. At this year’s Youth Solutions annual professional development conference, Summer Summit, Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) Specialists and Managers were immersed in two days of PBL training.
“We had our Specialists be students for the first day and a half of the 2-day training,” said Donna Rummel, Youth Solutions Innovations Manager. Each Specialist tackled the project as if they were a student in their own classroom. Although PBL assignments are typically longer than 2 days, the Specialists learned what it’s like and were able to experience all of the major learning points. During the last ½ day, the Specialists broke out into their individual program areas, in-school, out-of-school and alternative education, so they could discuss how to effectively implement this project in their own “classroom” context. The goal is to make the PBL interesting to the student population they serve.
Youth Solutions has aligned with Michael Kaechele, a teacher, author and educational consultant who is a former Buck Institute trainer that specializes in transformative PBL and SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) workshops. Kaechele is a big believer in the concept of “those who are doing are learning.” He focuses his approach with the idea of “hands on and minds on.” Kaechele believes that kids are naturally curious and interested in learning. Along their journey, some kids got turned off because they weren’t interested in what was being taught or the way it was being presented didn’t encourage them to learn. “If you give kids something meaningful, they’ll take off with it and come up with ideas that are really incredible,” said Kaechele. Both Rummel and Kaechele have worked together to build the immersive, professional development experience for the Specialists that will then, in turn, be used with students once school resumes.