Being a Project-Based Learning School sets us apart.
It’s what will make our students unafraid to explore and experience, to reflect and rethink,
to learn and live in a real and ever-changing world.
What standards does FLA follow?
Falls Lake Academy is a public charter school. We follow the same standards as the district public schools in North Carolina. The current standards adopted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction are the Common Core State Standards in the areas of Math and English/Language Arts for grades Kindergarten- 12th Grade. North Carolina has adopted essential standards for the areas of English as a Second Language, Science, Social Studies, World Languages, Arts Education and Healthful Living.
In Project-Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. While allowing for some degree of student “voice and choice,” rigorous projects are carefully planned, managed, and assessed to help students learn key academic content, practice 21st-century skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking), and create high-quality, authentic products & presentations.
To answer a driving question and create high-quality work, students need to do much more than remember information. They need to use higher-order thinking skills and learn to work as a team. They must listen to others and make their own ideas clear when speaking, be able to read a variety of material, write or otherwise express themselves in various modes, and make effective presentations. These skills, competencies, and habits of mind are often known as “21st-century skills,” because they are prerequisites for success in the 21st-century workplace.
Project-Based Learning reverses the order in which information and concepts are traditionally presented. A typical unit with a “project” add-on begins by presenting students with knowledge and concepts and then, once gained, giving students the opportunity to apply them. Project-Based Learning begins with the vision of an end product or presentation. This creates a context and reason to learn and understand the information and concepts.
- Is intended to teach significant content. Goals for student learning are explicitly derived from content standards and key concepts at the heart of academic disciplines.
- Requires critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication.
- Requires inquiry as part of the process of learning and creating something new. Students ask questions, search for answers, and arrive at conclusions, leading them to construct something new: an idea, an interpretation, or a product.
- Is organized around an open-ended driving question. This focuses on students’ work and deepens their learning by framing important issues, debates, challenges or problems.
- Creates a need to know essential content and skills.
- Allows some degree of student voice and choice. Students learn to work independently and take responsibility when they are asked to make choices. The opportunity to make choices, and to express their learning in their own voice, also helps to increase students’ educational engagement.
- Includes processes for revision and reflection. Students learn to give and receive feedback in order to improve the quality of the products they create and are asked to think about what and how they are learning.
- Involves a public audience. Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher – in person or on-line. This “ups the stakes,” increasing students’ motivation to do high-quality work, and adds to the authenticity of the project.
If we are serious about reaching 21st-century educational goals, PBL must be at the center of 21st-century instruction. The project contains and frames the curriculum, which differs from the short “project” or activity added into traditional instruction. PBL is, “The Main Course, not Dessert.”
Students gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and standards at the heart of a project. Projects also build vital workplace skills and lifelong habits of learning. Projects can allow students to address community issues, explore careers, interact with adult mentors, use technology, and present their work to audiences beyond the classroom. PBL can motivate students who might otherwise find school boring or meaningless.
Some teachers use PBL extensively as their primary curriculum organizer and instructional method. Others use PBL occasionally during a school year. Projects vary in length, from several days to several weeks or even a semester. PBL can be effective at all grade levels and subjects, and in career/technical education, after school and alternative programs.
As early as Middle School, Falls Lake Academy also boasts a rich environment not always available in other places. These courses also utilize PBL instruction, often in conjunction with other courses.