Developing the ability to assess a problem, work together and improve the community is what challenge-based learning is about, and schools throughout Pueblo West will be putting the ideas into action.
All District 70 schools were recently trained in challenge-based learning, and ideas will be implemented in a wide variety of ways.
At Liberty Point Elementary School, Principal Cheryl Vincent said she’s excited to bring the thinking skills to as many kids as possible.
Beginning next semester, all students who participate in the 21st Century Grant at the school will be involved in challenge-based learning projects, based on grade level.
The 21st Century Grant allows for any student who needs to increase achievement in reading, writing or math to attend the school on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for extra help and work. Vincent said nearly 50 percent of the students qualify for the grant, and there are approximately 15 students per grade level that take advantage of the offering.
The challenge-based learning ideas will become part of the Friday activities, so students will work together for collective change and betterment.
“It greats in students the ability to assess a community problem and then brainstorm a plan,” Vincent said of challenge-based learning.
“They learn to network with businesses that will help them and then put a program in place to fix the problem, not just now, but to make a change forever.”
She offered examples of challenge-based learning done at other schools. A third grade class noticed the school’s baseball field was inhabited by so many geese that they couldn’t make use of it.
The students researched and learned that geese were afraid of images of dogs, so they coordinated with a lumberyard for materials and created and painted silhouettes of dogs.
When the field is not in use by students, the silhouettes are placed on the field, keeping it clear and clean of debris.
“This is a way for us to bring this type of thing to the regular ed classroom,” Vincent said.
“Years ago, you had a handful of kids that you said had leadership skills and vision. Now, every student can be given the opportunity to hone those skills.
“To be a leader. To think outside the box and work in that group dynamic.”
Vincent said she noticed during the challenge-based learning training that many teachers were very excited when talking about the difference between a student and a learner.
“A student asks how to get an A, and learns how many assignments to do for an A,” Vincent said.
“A learner asks how to complete a project to success. It’s recognizing how we educate kids to change the future, not just get an A. We want to create thinking, viable problem-solving human beings.”
Vincent said students are often asked to solve problems as a one-time shot, but thinking about how to create and change something permanently is a different way of problem solving. She’s excited to see what kinds of things her students come up with and see the Pueblo West community positive changed.