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February 2, 2018

Inside Our Classrooms: Winter 2018

From investigating how belief systems influence culture to exploring the connection between folk tales and social communication, to applying math to solve real-world problems, here are some recent highlights of project-based learning from around the AltSchool network.

Read more about our educational philosophy in Our Learner-Centric Approach.

Exploring Connections Between Beliefs and Culture

Middle School students at our Union Square campus in New York began their project by answering this essential question: How do belief systems influence the development and organization of culture?

At the beginning of the learning cycle—during the wonder and engage period—students looked at artifacts at the Met and asked, “How do we know what we know about Ancient China between 7000 BCE and 220 BCE?”

During the investigate and create stages of the learning cycle, students worked on individual research papers and used that knowledge to create artifacts about topics such as Buddhism, Taoism, Oracle Bones, and the I Ching, which built a full picture of the belief systems that influenced the culture of Ancient China. As a culminating exercise, they shared their learning during our gallery walk celebration.

Investigating Folktales and Social Communication

Folktales are one of the oldest and most powerful genres, deeply rooted in traditions and cultures throughout the world. Palo Alto UE students explored how folktales as an artform allowed for social communication in Western Africa.

Students immersed themselves in the world of West African folktales through readings, field work, and investigations with experts. Students learned while folktales vary in style, all folktales are designed to teach lessons about life, provide moral explanations, and/or explain natural events. Students utilized their newfound knowledge of West African folktales to create and publish their own. These folktales were presented during the Learning Exhibition as part of the student-hosted public reading and museum tour.

Using Math to Solve Global Issues

AltSchool’s commitment to inquiry-based learning, global citizenship, and social justice issues was evidenced in a recent project at AltSchool Palo Alto. In collaboration with Doctors Without Borders and MathAction, Upper Middle School students conducted an in-depth math investigation based upon the Forced From Home exhibition in Oakland, CA. Over the course of this project, students learned firsthand how math is used to investigate and seek solutions for complex, real-world challenges.

The Unit began with an investigation into the refugee crisis through a lens of math and humanities, and included visits to the Forced From Home exhibit, conversations with refugee aid workers, and presentations to experts from Doctors Without Borders. The Unit culminated with in-depth presentations during our Learning Exhibition, in which students demonstrated their learning by highlighting various examples of refugee crisis from across the globe, and their recommendation for addressing the specific needs of the refugee group they studied—such as clean water, food, and hygiene.

Learn more about our lab schools and our partner school program.

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