Several bright and talented Lamar Elementary students recently showcased their unique critical thinking and problem-solving skills at a Denison ISD Board of Trustees meeting that featured a presentation of the school’s highly successful “Project-Based Learning” program.
According to Principal Janet Mobley, the program revolves around real-life projects that are specifically designed to keep students engaged, involved, interested and responsible for their learning. In addition to projects designed and implemented by Lamar teachers in all grade levels, community partners bring various business, manufacturing, professional and industrial projects directly into the classrooms. This year’s community partners to date include Aramark, KTEN Television, First United Bank/Jessica Duce, the DHS Culinary program/Sabrina Redwine, and numerous Lamar Elementary parents.
“Our community partners provide priceless experiences and life lessons for our students, imparting great knowledge, wisdom and encouragement every step of the way,” said Mobley. “With their guidance, the students become as much an active part of the process of learning, start to finish, as they are of the end result.”
Mobley added that the kids work in teams during Project-Based Learning sessions, with all team members responsible for certain important aspects of each project. “Focus, listening, staying on task and attention to detail are crucial. So are goal-oriented research and analysis, productive discussions among team members, adherence to timelines and deadlines, and evaluations and assessments following each project. Each team member must meet and exceed their responsibilities in order for the team to successfully solve problems and complete the project. As our students progress through the grade levels, the requirements and responsibilities get progressively more complex.”
Mobley says the students welcome the responsibility of assigning tasks, informing teammates of work expectations, and tracking progress.
“It’s called Project-Based Learning because the concept is similar to real-world projects in the workplace where employees do research together, learn together and work together to ultimately achieve success for clients and customers,” said Mobley. “This kind of learning requires our students to go through all these steps as well, learning and growing with each piece of acquired knowledge until all the pieces come together and the project is successfully completed. These are skills our students will utilize throughout their lives…learning to depend on themselves and others, learning to manage their time, do their work, meet challenges, solve problems and get the job done. At the end of each project, they can clearly see that their contributions were crucial to the project’s success.”
To show DISD board members how the process works, several groups of Lamar students demonstrated and explained how they successfully solved a hypothetical classroom problem after reading different versions of The Gingerbread Man and discussing the characters and story sequences.
“Over the course of the project, the kids worked in teams, exchanging ideas and discussing ways to capture the runaway gingerbread man,” said Ashley Smith, Lamar Kindergarten teacher. “Although they may not have realized it, the kids were thinking critically about the problem, gathering and analyzing data, discussing options and determining solutions. This is where it all begins. These students will remember what they learned because they experienced it. But equally important, they are developing the skills they’ll need at every level to understand and solve increasingly more difficult and complex problems.”
DISD Board Trustee Brian Aspell said this kind of learning sets the stage for future success in the workplace. “It’s exciting to see our young students learning to think, study and work in stimulating classroom environments that emphasize critical thinking and problem solving skills. These kids will eventually be our future workers and leaders…in manufacturing as well as other career and professional fields, and they’re becoming exactly what we need: critical thinkers and hard workers who are also excellent problem solvers and solid team members. Our Denison schools are full of great teachers and staff who are 100% devoted to reaching, teaching and improving the lives of every single student.”
Lamar Principal Janet Mobley and two of her kindergarteners present a presentation featuring one of the school’s Project-Based Learning programs to DISD Board members.
Lamar teacher Ashley Smith and two of her kindergarten students showed DISD School Board Trustees Brian Aspell and Linda Flemming how they used critical thinking skills to capture the runaway gingerbread man.
When not working on Project-Based Learning projects or prepping for STAAR testing, Lamar students spend quality time honing science skills with Instructional Assistant Beverly Talbott in the school’s interactive Science Lab.
Landon Loun of Lamar Elementary school leads DISD Board Trustees in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag prior to the start of a DISD Board Meeting that included a presentation on Lamar’s Project-Based Learning program.