Compass Program students dive into unique project-based learning opportunities
They cheered. They toured. They learned.
Nearly a dozen middle school students in Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES’ Compass Program recently experienced the thrill of attending a Syracuse University men’s basketball game.
The field trip to the Carrier Dome, made possible by the generosity of Connor Salanger and Matt Jacob of Jacob Wealth Management and Tax Strategies, was the beginning of the students’ latest project-based learning (PBL) task.
PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question or challenge. This is the third PBL project for the Compass Program’s middle school students this year.
“The key to successful PBL is hooking the students with an engaging activity at the beginning -- this creates student buy-in,” said Compass Program STEM Coordinator Jennifer Wall.
Being a part of the crowd at the Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 SU basketball game was the hook for the students in the Compass Program’s sports-related PBL group.
Five weeks. Two projects.
In addition to the students in the sports-related group, there are 10 middle school students in a Pokemon-themed group.
“We surveyed the students to determine their interests and hobbies outside of the classroom -- that’s how we selected sports and Pokemon for our PBL themes,” said Wall.
Using Google Classroom, Wall created a digital survey for students to complete.
“According to the results, our students are passionate about sports, Pokemon, and food -- so we’re incorporating all three into the next five weeks.”
During this time, students will experience hands-on learning to answer a driving question.
Sports Group Driving Question: What does a sports team need in order to be successful?
Pokemon Group Driving Question: What does a Pokemon tournament need in order to be successful?
Making an impact
“It can sometimes be difficult for students to relate to a real-life situation that we discuss in class, because they haven’t experienced it for themselves,” said Wall.
Connecting students with hands-on learning experiences, like the SU basketball game, makes being a part of the Compass Program very special for Wall.
“Students were so excited when we told them we were taking them to a game. One student is a huge Orange fan and had never been to a game -- he simply didn’t believe me when I told him we were going to the game. He was so happy -- it was very neat to be a part of that experience.”
Students took note of the many activities taking place during the game that help make the men’s basketball team successful. Now they’re ready to dive into their project’s driving question.
"I really liked walking around the Dome, seeing the national championship trophy, taking pictures, and hanging out with my friends,” said seventh-grader Bailey McIntosh.
"I liked seeing the players up close and watching the game in person, instead of on the TV," said eighth-grader Victoriana Brown.
Planning a Pokemon tournament
Students in the Pokemon group will also experience hands-on learning. Wall plans to bring them to a comic book store in Syracuse to meet with an events coordinator who regularly plans tournaments.
“Meeting someone who plans Pokemon tournaments for a living will resonate with our students,” said Wall.
With so much excitement and passion infused into the two projects, Wall anticipates that the next five weeks will move quickly. Looking ahead, she plans to use the survey results to drive the curriculum for the remainder of the year.
“Rockets,” she said. “That’s what we’ll focus on next -- because we know our students want to learn more about them.”
To learn more about Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES’ Compass Program, click here.
Written by Danica Kaltaler