A Reflection on Semester Highlights

by Caleb Abshire
Grade 9, Columbus Signature Academy New Tech High School

Now that I have a few projects under my belt, I think I can finally pick my favorites so far.  All of the projects that I have undertaken so far have been a blast.  I’ve learned something interesting from every one of them, like how to streak a plate in Biology, or how to write a really good narrative in English. Projects have always been fun for me, but a little daunting, and going to a PBL school has helped me overcome that fear.
At first I was afraid, not so much because I thought projects would be time consuming, but because I was afraid of failing.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t be perfect, which I think is a big problem in today’s society. Society puts too much emphasis on grades and not enough on ingenuity.  PBL schools help kids get good grades because of their ingenuity, and that’s why I enjoy projects so much; I don’t have to be perfect.
And yet, while I don’t have to be perfect, I still want to put in a perfect effort.  I think that perfect effort and a ingenuity are the things that make or break a person in the world.  Albert Einstein flunked math, but with ingenuity and quite a bit of effort, he managed to come up with a lot of the theories that we use today.
While I like all of my projects this semester, I have a couple favorites, both individual and collaborative.  Individual projects are not the basis of PBL, but they do help us learn to manage our time and prepare us for individual tasks in the real world. My favorite individual project this year would probably be writing our English CRA. For that project, we had a choice between two books to read: The World Without Us or Ishmael. I chose to read both, and both are fantastic.  That project probably was the one that put the most stress on me, but in the end, I got to write a paper on my philosophies and how Ishmaelsupported them.  I love to talk about philosophy, and I love to read, so this project was fun. But it was also challenging because of the amount of work that I had to put into it, while balancing band and other activities.
Group projects are a much bigger part of PBL, and as such I feel I should also include my favorite group project. My favorite group project was designing a rainwater harvesting system for GEO/ IED (Geometry + Introduction to Engineering & Design.) In that project, our task was to create a rainwater harvesting system for our school garden without changing anything about the current method for diverting rainwater from the roof to the ground. This was a challenge because the current system left little to no room for improvement or modification. We settled on incorporating the placement of a garden shed into our design, and using the roof of that as the source of rainwater. I had fun with that project because everyone was working, and they were working well. We were working hard because we were practicing things that sparked our interest in a safe environment, and we could help each other.
I think that’s what everyone looks for in a project: an opportunity to practice what they love to do and hopefully increase their aptitude through doing it.  And I think that’s what all projects are about, and I don’t just mean school projects. These experiences prepare us for the “project” of life, and help us decide how we will contribute to mankind.  PBL lets us explore all the possibilities.
PBL is about so much more than just getting through the school day.  It’s not that students don’t get tired or don’t complain; it’s that they tire, and complain, while happy.  They’re happy because they are doing something they love and figuring out solutions for real problems. PBL is ideal for ambitious students to be pushed further and harder, and helpful for not-so-ambitious students to figure out what they want to do in their life.  PBL is a new method for a new age of scholars.  This new age of scholars will fix new age problems.  And it all starts with kids having favorite projects.

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