MCS’s PBL Provides Authenticity: Students in Real Work, with a Real Need, for a Real Audience
Touring a new family around Muskegon Christian School is one of the best parts Sonya Doty’s job.
That might surprise you. But throughout their conversation, she gets the opportunity to demonstrate how MCS serves the variety of students whom God sends their way. “When I walk down our halls and into our classrooms with prospective parents, I am able to shine a light on fantastic teachers, innovative teaching, and transformational education,” explains Doty, Development Director at MCS.
When I walk down our halls and into our classrooms with prospective parents, I am able to shine a light on fantastic teachers, innovative teaching, and transformational education.
Project Based Learning (PBL) was one innovative teaching tool that MCS incorporated into the curriculum this year. PBL involves students in real work, with a real need, for a real audience. Teachers begin by proposing a problem to be addressed. Each project has a checklist of features (a rubric) describing the success criteria, and teachers plan lessons that teach skills and content needed to complete the project.
How does that work in the classroom? Kari Bonnema’s Kindergarten class was studying a farm animal unit and did some activities one might expect – going to Country Dairy on a field trip and writing/illustrating a short book on a chosen farm animal. But the culmination of this unit was the challenge of Designing a Chicken Coop formed around the question “If Mr. DeKam allowed us to have pet chickens at MCS, what kind of chicken coop would you build?” Kindergarteners worked with their 5th-grade book buddy to design the chicken coop, draw the coops out on big poster papers and answer questions about why they made certain design decisions. Then they built a model (out of Legos, wooden blocks or Lincoln logs) based on their design and then shared their projects with other students.
As Kari shares, this PBL project was simple but impactful. “The kids loved it and really got into it, demonstrating that they understood what factors were necessary to raise happy healthy chickens. One student even wanted to build his designed chicken coop at home! For real! With wood!”
At WMCS, everything we do is from the perspective of a Christ-centered worldview. We not only ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” we show our students “What Jesus Says” as it relates to the classroom, the athletic field and the community we serve. WMCS extends “Beyond Academics” and educates the whole child, putting Christ at the center of all we do. Academically, we perform with excellence, with top local and nationally standardized test scores.
West Michigan Christian Schools (WMCS) together strive to: