Project Based Learning (PBL)

Project Based Learning (PBL) is an instructional methodology that empowers our middle school students to learn and apply knowledge and skills through hands-on, creative, and engaging real-world problem-solving experiences.  PBL provides opportunities for deeper learning while developing important life and career skills necessary for future learning and success!

Our teachers have been trained at the foremost prestigious training institutions such as The Buck Institute and are inspired by the creativity and ingenuity that this instructional approach provides.  PBL works because...

It is Interdisciplinary

PBL is relevant and inherently exciting to students (and to our teachers) because it engages them in real-world problem solving. The projects our teachers design with students require inquiry, hypothesizing, solution building, product design and construction, and critical reflection and assessment.  Content knowledge and skills gained from core classes are applied and brought to life in this setting.  PBL also draws on the “soft skills” of education, such as leadership, teamwork, communication, and emotional intelligence.  In a technology- driven economy, these skills are recognized as critical indicators for success in next generation career building and a seamless and natural component of PBL. 

It is Rigorous

Project based learning requires the application of knowledge, skills, and analysis.  It requires much more than just recall or recognition. Unlike rote learning that assesses a single fact, PBL is complex and requires students to apply a full range of academic content in new contexts, synthesizing new information and creating new understanding.  This represents the highest level of critical thinking, and this is what makes Hebrew Academy graduates stand out.

It is Student-centered

In PBL, the role of the teacher shifts from expert lecturer to facilitator. Students become resourceful and learn to work independently, while the teacher provides guidance and support as needed. Students are guided and encouraged to make their own decisions about how best to do their work and demonstrate their understanding. PBL thereby fosters independence and interdependence, ownership and teamwork, competency and a commitment to lifelong learning. 

Examples in our setting

Thanks to a generous multi-year grant from the Alevy Family Foundation The Hebrew Academy of Orange County Middle School program has successfully provided interdisciplinary Project Based Learning for nearly a decade.  Instead of rote learning from outdated textbooks, our students learn all of the state mandated curriculum standards while engaged in hands-on, real world, creative problem solving. 

 

Earthquakes

The Hebrew Academy students completed a vigorous research project exploring the topic of earthquakes around the globe and their geological and physical aftermath. Students explored different regions of the world and mapped the occurrence of earthquakes that have happened in that region.  They studied and compared statistics, outcomes, and even the degree to which the engineering of the regions homes protects people. The passion and creativity of this project flowed seamlessly, while students engaged in research, became aware of cultural norms and phenomenon around the world, and created their own recommendations for engineering.

 

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PHDs in Middle School

The Hebrew Academy students completed another rigorous course of study, called the Project of Our Heart’s Desire, or PHD. Unique to The Hebrew Academy this educational opportunity blends the rigor of academic and scientific research skills, with the Jewish values of mitzvot and caring. Students were guided by their teachers in research and learning about numerous nonprofit community-based agencies and organizations that provide a wide range of support services locally and abroad. Scientific research and writing skills were taught and applied throughout the process.

After researching an organization, its mission, and accomplishments, and traveling to meet members of the organization, middle school students created a project of their own design to make a difference in their community and world. Students raised money and used democratic processes as well as research and presentation skills to collectively decide how the money they raised would be distributed to the nonprofit organizations.  Parents were actively involved in this unique educational experience, sharing their own philanthropic passions and providing access to community based organizations that students could visit.  Students were well-prepared to present their research and findings at an exciting culminating event in May.

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Prosthetics and 3D Printing!

 

This project left a lasting impression not only on our students, but on individuals in need of prosthetics in developing countries and around the world!  This unique and special project involved a very special non-profit organization called Enabling the Future.  Integrating science, technology, robotics, engineering, art, and math (STREAM) Middle School students applied learning to some very real-world problems, and got to see first-hand the direct impact their work has on people in need.  

 

Guest speakers from VA Long Beach introduced students to the field of prosthetics.  Students also took a fieldtrip to Cal State University of Dominguez Hills, a foremost expert facility providing prosthetics and orthotics to people in need.  With this introduction to the process students began the engineering design process to build their own prosthetics from basic recycled materials.

Ultimately they researched, manufactured and troubleshoot different designs for prosthetic hands using the MakerBot 3-D printer in the X-STREAM Lab, presenting their findings to parents and community members in writing, public speaking, and self-made videos.

This project brought together The Hebrew Academy’s core values of kindness and love for one another along with our deep commitment to the cutting edge education necessary to be competitive in a modern and ever-changing world economy driven by technology. The students hard work and achievement was recognized by the offices of our State Senator Thom Umberg as well as Assemblyman Diep and our local city council who all attended the curriculum showcase and awarded certificates of accomplishment and recognition for the students contribution. 

 

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