Tony Harris, Adrianna Smyth and Justin Wells - Marin School of the Arts and Technology Charter High School (MSAT)
Three educators at Marin School of the Arts and Technology Charter High School (MSAT), near San Francisco, California, are using project-based learning to teach students about the watersheds of the San Francisco Bay region. Media instructor Tony Harris, science teacher Adrianna Smyth, and English teacher Justin Wells, have developed an inter-disciplinary approach to bringing environmental education into the curriculum.
In the six-week project, Adrianna combined classroom learning about watersheds, topographical maps, and data analysis with field trips to collect samples and water-quality data. Tony taught students to use digital photography, movie production, and multimedia presentations to create presentations and videos using the information gathered during science class. Students used the writing skills learned in Justin’s English class to create scripts and presentation slides.
"The most important role for the teacher in any project-based learning environment is not just to be an active facilitator, but to be the general manager," says Tony. "You have to be in there with the kids every day to some extent, checking in on what they are working on and what they are doing."
Adrianna acknowledges that project-based learning requires her to balance hands-on experiences with standards-based instruction, but the benefits of teaching environmental education across disciplines became clear when students demonstrated their knowledge through presentations to the student body and parents who assembled to view the students' projects.