Innovation in Learning Study Group

West Coast: Ready to Launch

By: Matt McCormick

There is no doubt that what we have seen in San Diego is impressive. It has made me think much more deeply about what we mean by the term “innovative.” At High Tech High, it seems to mean project based learning. They do it very, very well.


But I do think it’s important to realize that teachers in our own district are engaging their students in project-based learning. Last year’s impressive Moth storytelling event at Artistree comes to mind. So does the 8th-grade solar collection project. Also 7th graders’ “I wonder” letters to scientists about a topic of their choosing.

In addition, there are myriad schools in New England and even in Vermont that have also committed themselves to engaging students through the study of real-world issues that result in authentic projects. In fact, New York state’s Common Core-aligned Language Arts curriculum, Engage NY, is nearly all project based, particular in the elementary and middle grades. The National Council for the Social Studies’ database of units,,also contains plenty of ideas for launching project-based learning.

All of which is to say: We can do this. There are certainly areas in which we can and should grow. But I do think we have a great platform from which to launch.