Engaging. Innovative. Supportive. Successful.

Project Based Learning (PBL)

PBL @ Carroll - Land of the Free, Home of the Awesome

What is PBL at Carroll

Welcome to the PBL @ Carroll Page! Within these hallowed bits, you will find examples of current and past projects that have enriched Carroll’s already unique curriculum. For decades, Carroll has successfully worked to create a program that raises students up and gives them the tools to move beyond their dyslexia to become masters of their own learning. In conjunction with this, the PBL Department at Carroll has continuously sought to build on the inherent and myriad strengths of the dyslexic learner. Often possessed with creativity, insight, drive and a singular perspective, our students actively apply their skills within the context of authentic work with tangible products.

At Carroll, the basic elements of PBL are modified and augmented to support our learners and unleash their potential.

Our goal is to support the above PBL process with structural supports that allow students to succeed. Steps are separated and highlighted, with the organizational skills that we regularly teach, applied to managing and navigating individual projects. Students are usually required to maintain logs and document their process and thinking on a regular basis. Besides the employment of their language skills, projects are frequently cross-curricular, resulting in regular dialog and connections between disciplines.

The projects that you’ll find here represent a cross section of the compelling work each student regularly produces at Carroll. Every teacher collaborates with other teachers as well as the Project-Based Learning Department to develop and implement PBL opportunities throughout the year. PBL topics are part of the panoply of professional development offerings at Carroll each year. Projects occur across the school. They take place in the classroom, public spaces, outdoors, or in our Learning Commons and Fabrication Laboratory (Fab Lab). Students learn to appreciate and utilize the wealth of resources available on campus for producing work that allows them to approach and exceed their goals.

The goal of Carroll PBL is to help students produce high quality work in an authentic context on their paths to becoming self-actualized learners. We hope you enjoy their work!


Theatrical Problem Solving

In Mr. Bearson’s math class, PBL comes in large and small packages and whenever possible. Recently, students have been playing with different ways of modeling problem-solving. Because they are a physical and dramatic (in the best ways possible!) bunch, we have been exploring guiding questions, such as “How can we use what we know about theater to “perform,” these problems? Accordingly, students have been selecting problems and scripting out the elements to allow them to gain insights on possible strategies. Because they are immersed within the puzzle itself as a theatrical reality, they find themselves less concerned about waiting until they are given a method and less sidelined by errors or wrong turns. Admittedly, the latter is partly because it’s pretty fun to make mistakes in this context! More importantly, they gain a solid grasp of the strategies: effective ones, partially so, and not effective at all, and are far more flexible when it comes to refining their own. Here’s the problem they are working on in the accompanying picture:

There are four people who need to get to the other side of the bridge, each with their own time needed to get across said bridge. Even worse, the bridge can only support two of them for each trip (and the person with the longer time is counted when traveling in the pair). Oh and it’s dark and there is only one flashlight so a person who has crossed the bridge has to come back for a return trip in order to lead another person across once again. Person A can get across in 1 minute, Person B does it in 2 minutes, Person C crosses in 5 and slowpoke sloth human needs 10 minutes. You need to get everybody to the other side in under 17 minutes. How do you do it?


Who’s the Real Monster Here?

Although the general perception of the story of Frankenstein is one that conjures up images of a stiff-legged, zipper-necked giant that fits into our notions of Halloween spookiness, Mary Shelley’s original novel is an intricate study of where the line between monster and man exists within a person and whether the eponymous doctor and his modern Prometheus are truly villain or victim. Truly, this is heady material for any level, but Ms. Sianato’s 8th Grade Language class took on the challenge of sizing this guiding question and seeing what insights could be gained by pursuing it.

Students were thrust into a courtroom setting where, acting as prosecutors, defendants and witnesses, they went about trying to determine if Victor Frankenstein was guilty of 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter in the Deaths of William, Justine, Henry, and Elizabeth. After reading the book and researching the themes, students began to formulate case strategies. They drew up lists of questions for witnesses, along with opening and closing statements.

In their drive to prove the case, the prosecution asserted that Victor actually “created” something - perhaps not brought something dead to life but something different. Victor knowingly abandoned this creation and allowed 4 people to die as a result.

For their part, the defense sought to prove that Victor could not have been responsible for the crimes he was accused of because Victor was not in his right mind after failing to complete college. They attempted to prove that Victor had lost lost his mind and honestly believed that his creature would not survive long enough to do any real damage. Furthermore, they also asserted that the times the creature claimed he spoke to Victor, Victor thought he was hallucinating and not having a rational conversation. In this way, the defense sought to prove that Victor was insane and therefore not responsible for killing anyone because he suffered a break with reality and was therefore of diminished capacity.

The reading, writing, speaking, communicating and organizing tasks involved with such an endeavor were obvioulsy myriad. Students fully immersed themselves in their roles, creating dramatic courtroom scenes (although, it was clear that a little too much Law & Order SVU was seen as a realistic courtroom model!). Students were able to apply and present their ideas before their peers and the judges, who were made up of Ms. Sianato and various other teachers and administrators. They came away with a strong grounding in both the themes brought up by the book but also the skills necessary to utilize those ideas in building a persuasive argument.

Compared to just reading the book, I learned so much about the characters by defending them in court. It was hard work but really fun, too!” -Anne P. Grade 8