This time of year I am always reminded by the opening lines of one of my favorite books by Natalie Babbitt that I use to love to teach when I was a 5th grade teacher at East Hill Elementary in the West Genesee school district. The opening lines from Tuck Everlasting are:
“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things…”
As the first few weeks of August hang at the very top of summer, I am very reflective of all the great learning and facilitating we have done in Project-Based Learning since the “climb from balmy spring”. I am proud to see the OCM BOCES PBL vision reach beyond the borders of Central New York and the 23 component districts.
In June I started off my summer feeling very privileged to be able to attend the PBLworld Conference in Napa, CA and hosted by the Buck Institute with my two colleagues and fellow PBL trainers. We had an opportunity to learn about ELA Common Core PBL, PBL Coaching, and Math Common Core PBL. During the four day conference we were inspired by great keynotes Stephan Ritz – Green Bronx Machine Founder & TEDx Speaker, Sam Seidel – Author of Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education, Emily Pilloton – Author of Design Revolution & TED Speaker, and Pearl Arredondo – Teacher Fellow & TED Speaker.
In early July, the OCM BOCES PBL Team joined the Innovation Tech Team at the New Tech Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA. We attended the New Tech coaching seminars and worked with the Innovation Tech team of teachers and administrators as they prepare to open their new school this fall in Liverpool, NY. New Tech schools such as Innovation Tech use Project (and problem) Based Learning as the only way students learn. Our PBL Team will work closely with the New Tech coaches as we gradually begin to coach the facilitators at Innovation Tech.
Upon getting back from New Orleans, we held our summer PBL-101 session at OCM BOCES. More teachers from Central NY filled the room as we helped them prepare their first project for the 2014-15 school year.
The Ferris wheel took us to the top of summer and August arrived. After months of planning and collaboration, the OCM BOCES Instructional Support team held their first annual PBLny Conference in Central NY! Over 300 educators from all over New York State attended this inspirational conference. Close to 100 educators attended the Elementary and Middle/High School sessions of the PBL-101 trainings. Great keynotes such as Sam Chaltain, Ron Berger, and Yong Zhoa inspired our learning and thinking each day. BIE’s own Suzie Boss held a session on 21st Century Success. All PBLny participants received Suzie’s newest book. Schools districts the OCM-PBL team worked with over the past year shared their high-quality projects and how their schools got started with their vision for PBL. Rachel Brian joined us and provided us with her visual graphics of all the keynotes and various breakout sessions.
As the Ferris wheel of August starts to “drop to the chill of autumn” we finish off this successful PBL focused summer in two brand new places, expanding our vision further. Part of the PBL team headed west to begin work with the OCM BOCES component district Chittenango while the other headed north to St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES to work with the Gouverneur district.
This fall, students all over New York State will experience real-life application of their learning and will be learning the skills needed to be career and college ready due to all the great learning that has taken place this summer in our region and beyond. When we engage children in aesthetic learning opportunities that PBL experiences create, we engage their heart, their mind and soul. We create a positive learning environment where children can be fully alive in their learning. As Natalie Babbitt’s character Angus Tuck says to the young character Winnie, “Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”