More than 200 educators participated in the third annual collaboration between Indiana University and a southern Indiana coalition of business, education, and community leaders to spread project-based learning (PBL) principles to area schools. "The PBL Academy" held a week-long session at Columbus Signature Academy New Tech High School June 13-17, following sessions on the IU Bloomington campus. The PBL Academy is a joint project of Indiana University and EcO15, an initiative of business, education and community leaders to advance K-12 education in a 10-county area in southeastern Indiana funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE) and the I-STEM Resource Network are supporting the PBL Academy.
The PBL Academy has grown out an effort by IU School of Education Mathematics Education Professor Catherine Brown. The ICHE funded "Math Matters" with around 50 teachers in 2009, expanding to add science curriculum last year with "Molecules Matter"--organized by IU College of Arts and Sciences Senior Lecturer in Chemistry Jill Robinson. More than 80 teachers participated in 2010. This year, around 215 teachers, administrators, and other educators have packed the sessions and others had to be turned away because of space limitations.
"It is gratifying," Brown said. "It's a little nerve wracking to get up to this size this fast, but I think it speaks to the fact that there's kind of a self-evident benefit to using project based learning."
"The growth was much more rapid than we anticipated, frankly," said Bob Abrams, facilitator with EcO15—short for "Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015. EcO15 covers Bartholomew, Dearborn, Decatur, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley, Franklin and Switzerland counties.
Teachers from those counties as well as Monroe, Brown, and Lake Counties are participating. "This region is becoming a very strong PBL community and we have some schools in this region that as a result of their experience with this PBL training workshop are converting themselves to some degree as PBL schools.
Project-based learning is a teaching and learning method that encourages students to drive their learning by using inquiry and technology to investigate a project. Such projects can range across several disciplines. Proponents say the students work in a more realistic or "real-world" fashion while also absorbing material more readily because of their interest and engagement with the project.
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