Cultivating Student Passions through a Stronger Parent-School Partnership
Michael Bowler, Assistant Head of School
The Educational Leadership Team has done a lot of thinking this year about how this pandemic has created both new challenges and new opportunities for Fayerweather. While the challenges are often more visible, I’m excited by the way our current situation opened the door for us to deepen our essential work and add new practices that take our educational model in exciting directions.
Hands-on, experiential learning has been a core value at Fayerweather, and Project Based Learning is a growing part of that. The previously highlighted Pandemic Invention Project in grades 5-6 is a great example of the integrated projects framework the school is growing right now. But what is Project Based Learning? PBL Works defines it as, “a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.” This summer, an opportunity arose to pilot Parent PBL Fridays. This program allows the school to deepen its partnership with parents and provide an extension of student learning in the classroom.
The project started from a conversation with a parent this summer who wanted to be helpful in supporting the school with student passion projects that can be done as effectively remotely or in-person. A challenge emerged as we thought out the details: teachers were already spread thin due to the challenges of the hybrid learning model. An exciting solution emerged that involved leveraging the talents and passions of our parent community in a way that supports our mission and allows students to apply their Fayerweather learning in dynamic new projects with authentic experts. And just like that, the idea of Parent PBL Fridays was born. Some trailblazing parents are offering immersive inquiry-based projects to students in Grades 5-8 on Friday afternoons that tap into student interest and provide a natural audience and outlet outside of the classroom. These offerings are designed to let students follow their passions through sustained inquiry and lots of opportunities for student choice and adult mentoring. The wide array of topics offered span from a writing club using old technology called, “Vintage Typewriter Magic,” to a STEAM-focused “FSS Circuit Maker Club,” which will have students making electronic clothing, a weather station, and even a DIY Gameboy. Two of the other offerings, “Clean Energy Club” and “Anti-Racist Activists Club,” mesh well with Fayerweather’s focus on environmental and social justice.
Over the next several months, we will gather information from what we learn about this process which will help inform what comes next for students in younger grades. This program allows our school to deepen its partnership with parents and provide an extension of student learning in the classroom. If you want to get involved with co-teaching or assisting in any of our PBL Friday offerings or perhaps offer something in the future, please reach out to me over email.