Project-based learning (PBL) at its core connects theory and content to applicable, hands-on learning. Research has repeatedly shown that PBL can not only enhance student engagement due to its hands-on nature, but can also significantly increase student retention (Strobel & Van Barneveld, 2009; Walker & Leary, 2009). Moreover, when PBL is consistently, effectively implemented, students achieve significantly higher percentages across reading and math, particularly among students of color (Cervantes, Hemmer & Kouzekanani, 2015). Hence, PBL strongly supports our core value of Scholarship.
While some traditional teachers may incorporate projects into their pedagogical practices, these projects are typically on a standalone or ad hoc basis and not implemented consistently and continuously schoolwide. Conversely, at Breakthrough Charter School, PBL is one of the foundational elements of our model. Rather than learning all content in isolated timeframes, students at Breakthrough will learn across disciplines on a daily basis, integrating discipline theory and application into meaningful projects around engaging topics.
Breakthrough teachers will design project-based units to align with Alabama State standards in a meaningful way. Grade-band teams of teachers will develop project-based units in which the science and social studies thematic elements draw cross-curricular content together into integrated units.
To strengthen our capacity to implement a high-quality PBL program, we have partnered with Citizens of the World Charter Schools, which is one of the highest-performing PBL schools in the nation. Breakthrough’s founding leader was selected among a competitive field to participate in the School Leaders Institute at Citizens of the World, wherein he will benefit from world-class guidance on best practices in launching and leading a PBL school.