State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher visited with students enrolled in Johnstown’s project based learning program “The Learning Project” and HFM’s Regional PTECH School at Jansen Avenue on Thursday, February 11. SUNY Director of Education Pipeline Strategies Jill Miller later gave a positive shout out to the programs via Twitter.
The Learning Project is a year-long half-day course at Jansen Avenue School offered by the school district for Johnstown students in their senior year. This unique, hands-on project based learning program encourages students to explore and deepen their understanding of themselves as stewards of their own lives, the community and the world around them. It is different from a traditional classroom experience, where teachers give clearly defined assignments. At The Learning Project, students are empowered to ask questions and make decisions on a daily basis. They have some choice in deciding what they will work on within a subject area, so projects are relevant to them and personally meaningful.
Throughout the year, the students develop problem solving, critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills through an inter-disciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) enriched curriculum. The Learning Project integrates these subjects through hands-on exploration of real world problems, with a goal of solving the problem and producing a solution or product for evaluation. Sometimes the product or solution is produced for, or evaluated by, people from outside of the school district. This again is different from a traditional classroom experience, where usually only the teacher sees the end product and assigns a grade.
Student participation in The Learning Project leads to high school credit in math, science, social studies and English. College credit in physics may also be awarded through Fulton Montgomery Community College. Juniors at Johnstown High School who are curious about whether The Learning Project might be the right fit for them in their senior year should speak to their guidance counselor.