Seventh grade students from Yellow Springs Schools embarked on Sept. 21-23 on an educational journey that took their learning on the road and ‘Into the Wild’ on a three-day, 53-mile bike ride.
“Five years into our journey to make project-based learning our primary method of instruction, our teachers are still excited about the possibilities and challenging themselves to develop lessons that will connect and engage students ,” said Superintendent Mario Basora. “’Into the Wild’ is one of our most ambitious projects to date. This is what project-based learning is all about: creating authentic opportunities for student learning, igniting a passion in our students, staff, and community, and giving our kids the opportunity to develop skills like teamwork and communication through their work.”
‘Into the Wild: Learning from the Land’ is a collaborative and interdisciplinary project-based learning initiative, combining lessons from every subject into an engaging and hands-on learning opportunity for students. From Sept. 21 to 23, students and teachers traveled by bike along the Little Miami Scenic Trail from Yellow Springs to Loveland, camping overnight and making educational stops related to lessons in each of their subjects.
"This project is a stepping stone on our journey to truly doing school better. Kids are more than a test score and exposure to work like this supports the complete child in ways that just can't happen in a traditional setting and inside a brick and mortar building,” said Jack Hatert, PBL Foundations Teacher at McKinney Middle School. “The energy and passion, positive peer pressure, and high-quality work that is coming out of this unit uncovers what kids are truly capable of when they are challenged in meaningful ways.”
Ninety-six percent of 7th graders participated in the project. Families received a letter over the summer about the trip and were encouraged to ride bikes with their students to help them prepare. Parents and community members have joined the 7th grade students and teachers for a series of training bike rides leading up to their departure.
“Through this project, our tremendous community and parental support is a testament to the values families and community members are currently instilling in our youth. Teaching through our passions, and the community's passions, make projects like this a natural fit,” said Kate Lohmeyer, Physical Education/Health Teacher. “Focused and intentional learning constructed around an idea that the community is already passionate about reaffirms and promotes learning that will resonate with students for a lifetime.”
The students engaged in work connected to the trip prior to their departure, and have continued their learning throughout the journey and beyond. During the trip, students:
• visited stops that were part of the Underground Railroad and connect the trip to a historical novel about slaves’ journey north students recently read.
• completed a 53-mile bike ride, a challenging physical activity that required preparation, training, and endurance.
• set up camp sites and participated in other activities that require skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
• filmed the journey to create a documentary of the project.
• collected water samples to analyze for water quality.
"I think the active nature of the trip helps to build excitement and intrigue across all the subject areas involved,” said Science Teacher Becca Eastman. “I am so excited for the students to do real-world, hands-on, science research and collect and analyze real data from a stream in their own community. It is so fun to see the student enthusiasm when talking about the water quality of a stream in their own town. The students truly have a vested interest in the project."