MIKE KWAS: I’ve got to tell you this has been a journey. This has been something else. To have the opportunity to reinvent education in a school district, that’s amazing.
[MUSIC – BROTHER HERSHEL]
ALEC PATTON: This is High Tech High Unboxed. I’m Alex Patton. And you just heard the voice of Mike Kwas, ninth grade social studies teacher at Cheltenham High School. This is the second episode in our series about Cheltenham School District’s mission to bring project-based learning to Cheltenham High School, a 135-year-old public school just outside Philadelphia.
In episode one, we met Dr. Wagner Marseille, frustrated student, Olympic hurdler, and now Cheltenham superintendent. And we met Colin McCarthy, managing director of the Avalon Foundation and tireless project-based learning advocate. And at the end of that episode, Dr. Marseille and Colin had teamed up to bring project-based learning to Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.
So what came next? Well, like Danny Ocean in Ocean’s 11 and Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible, Dr. Marseille and Colin knew that if you’ve got a tough job, you’re going to need one heck of a team.
[MUSIC PLAYING – JEFF TOO, “JET FIRE”]
Here’s who they found: Charlene Collins, director of secondary education; Brian Riley, supervisor of staff; Matt Pimental, supervisor of professional learning and k-12 gifted education; and most important of all, a team of teachers with nothing to lose.
[MUSIC PLAYING – JEFF TOO, “JET FIRE”]
That sounds over the top, but it’s true. Not for every single teacher, but definitely for some of them. Here’s ninth grade biology teacher Johanna Cella.
JOHANNA CELLA: I said, listen. I’m not entirely sure I want to do this for my entire career. But I’ve invested a lot of time and invested a lot of education into this career. I was like, I’m not going to just walk away. I want to make sure I exhaust all options.
ALEC PATTON: 10th grade chemistry teacher, Linsa Sunny.
LINSA SUNNY: I was just like, oh my god. This isn’t it. I need to do something different. I’m not really doing anything crazy effective for these kids.
ALEC PATTON: And seventh grade social studies teacher Isaac Stanford.
ISAAC STANFORD: I was kind of at a point in my teaching career where it’s like, I either need to do it differently, or not do it.
ALEC PATTON: Management theorists call this a burning platform. The idea is that people don’t make radical changes unless they don’t feel they have any choice. Like if the platform you’re standing on catches fire, or you’re ready to quit your job. But what about Charlene Collins, Brian Riley, and Matt Pimental? They’d already left the teaching profession. What was motivating them to embark on this obviously risky endeavor? To understand that, we need to go back a long way.
Let’s start with Matt. For him, it begins in elementary school.
MATT PIMENTAL: The elementary school is actually on the campus of the university. And it was a laboratory school. And so although it was a public school, what was happening pedagogically was way outside the norm. All the teachers at that particular era were like baby boomer hippie types, and it had very much that sort of flavor and flair.
And I remember leaving that school and going to seventh grade, which was the regular middle school, and I had no idea what I was in for. It was such a culture shock to go into this like standard, regular school. I just thought every school was this place where you spent two weeks in a wilderness camp learning how to build fish hooks out of tree bark and all these kinds of things.
ALEC PATTON: So when you say seventh grade was a culture shock, what was it that was shocking about it?
MATT PIMENTAL: Just what to me seemed like the confusion of bells ringing. And every 40 something minutes, like on the clock, like when that second hand struck, it was like everybody got up, and then you moved to this very specified place. The lessons felt very mechanical. I suddenly felt like I left what was like a family, and I got put into a machine.
ALEC PATTON: Then in college, Matt got an unusual job.
MATT PIMENTAL: I started working with this eccentric man. He was a Frenchman, and he was a theoretical physicist. And in his spare time, he liked to build sailboats and sail them around the world. And I helped this guy build a 50 foot sailboat that ended up sailing to Europe and then to Brazil.
I ended up being almost semi-obsessed with this side job that I had while I was in college. And at the end of college, somebody asked me, so, what did you learn, meaning in college. And I remember thinking, I learned how to weld. I learned how electricity works in a closed system. And I started thinking through all these things that I learned, and they had nothing to do with any of the coursework that I took or that my poor parents had to pay for.
ALEC PATTON: After college, Matt went into what you might call education, but you definitely wouldn’t call school.
MATT PIMENTAL: I originally worked for a teen travel company. We took American teenagers on trips to Europe. And the appeal there was that I was going to get paid to travel. And then once I got into the gig, what I actually really liked about it was designing the trips and essentially, I didn’t know it at the time, but curriculum development, basically.
And then working with the students, because I had 35 teenagers 24 hours a day. And I was like, wow. I actually kind of like this.
ALEC PATTON: When he realized he liked teaching, Matt did the obvious thing and became a teacher, getting a job at a no excuses charter school, whose name we will not be playing.
Where did your classroom feel like it was when you were teaching on the kind of family machine continuum?
MATT PIMENTAL: I would say as far onto the machine end of things as you could be. I can’t speak for the institution today in 2019. But when I was there, [BLEEP] Charter School was very standards-aligned, and the pedagogical approach was very structured.
ALEC PATTON: Your career, it seems like, mimicked your school progression. You went from being like, hey, kids. It’s Paris. To like–
MATT PIMENTAL: Yes.
ALEC PATTON: To like, here we go. This is the next–
MATT PIMENTAL: Yes. I will say, one of the advantages of the systemized approach, especially if you’re a brand new teacher, is it’s like, look. Today you have to teach a very clear objective. And there’s a very concrete way that you’re going to get from 0 to 60. And here are the tools to do it. And we’re going to observe you and rate you based on your ability to follow along with this very particular program. So the strength of it is I do feel like even as a first year teacher, I had success as it relates to like getting kids to read and write better than they did when they came to me.
ALEC PATTON: When you had your own classroom, what surprised you most about teaching?
MATT PIMENTAL: I think I had an idea of what I thought teaching was. And somewhere in there, I think I had a vision of compliant students.
That like, yes, you stand up there and you teach the youth. And they learn from you, and–
ALEC PATTON: And they do exactly as they’re told.
MATT PIMENTAL: Right. Yes. And then going into the environment where I was, my students were coming from the third poorest zip code in the country. And so it was a very fast, very stark coming down to reality, so to speak. And then I very quickly realized that one of the reasons why the kids were well-behaved on my trips was that they were engaged, and that they actually were enjoying their day to day. And I was like, the kids are here by force, essentially, in this classroom. They’re not here because they want to be here. And what we’re doing is not fun. So I have an unwilling group of forced participants.
ALEC PATTON: But for young Matt Pimental, history would repeat itself one more time, when like the French physicist before him, Matt found his ship. But for him and his students, it was an app.
MATT PIMENTAL: I worked with a particular group of students on a side project. And it was to create an app, and then it was submitted to– it was a competition. And this group of girls who I was working with were so obsessed with what started out as being something that they were sort of like, yeah. OK. I guess we’ll do it.
But then within three weeks, it was like they were in my office every day. They wanted my help with all kinds of things. One night, they were like, can we stay late after school? And I didn’t have any plans, and I was like, yeah. Sure. You can stay as late as you want. I didn’t know when I said that that I was going to be at work until 9:30. But they didn’t want to stop. They were putting this whole thing together.
And they wound up creating an app that was a series of intellectual puzzles that would tell you if you were too inebriated to drive. So the idea is if you’ve had a couple of drinks, you’d open up the of the app, and it’s almost like mental puzzles. And if you can’t solve them, then it’s an indication of inebriation.
So it was for a good cause. And the whole thing was just one of the best experiences I had had with students in years. And it was all led by them. It was about trying to solve a real world problem and solution. For me, that moment clicked all these other pieces into place about my own experience. And I was like, yeah. These girls are going to remember this. They won’t remember most of the classes they took this year.
ALEC PATTON: With this one project, Matt had found the sense of family that he’d had in elementary school and the sense of purpose he’d felt building the ship. The only problem was, he found it after school is finished. The school day itself, that was still the machine. Brian Riley, on the other hand, quite literally started out with machines, and he was fine with that.
BRIAN RILEY: So I started as an engineer, actually, a degree in mechanical engineering, designing fire sprinklers for a while. During that time period, my wife was a teacher. And I started coaching soccer and coaching for our local high school. That was my first time working with kids. At the time also, the head coach of the team said, you know, coaching is a lot easier and a lot better when you’re a teacher.
My company was in a transition period, so we were moving, where I had the option to either go to Rhode Island to stay in research and development, or to Texas, to stay in manufacturing. Neither one of those were appealing to me, so I went and pursued a certificate in teaching. I ended up getting into a middle school to teach technology education. So I presented it to my students as engineering for middle school.
ALEC PATTON: Yeah.
BRIAN RILEY: And I love doing that. I was able to stay in touch with what I was trained to do in college, but work with kids at the same time.
ALEC PATTON: Technology education is one of the places where project-based learning hides in plain sight to traditional schools. It was perfect for Brian. But nothing good lasts forever.
BRIAN RILEY: I taught tech ed for almost a decade, and then transitioned from middle school to high school. And in doing so, I was supposed to be launching a new engineering program at the high school. And one of the very last days, maybe the last day of the previous school year, I was told, you’re still moving to the high school, but you’re going to teach math instead.
So I got thrown out of tech ed, where we could do a lot of fun stuff, it was all based around project work, into a very standardized and strict teaching and learning environment, because it was a very high-performing school district. And so getting students to continue to perform at a high level was the mission.
So the advantages I had in terms of getting into teaching in a project-based content area was all thrown away. And any attempt to try to do that in a math classroom was frowned upon, because it was– your neighbors aren’t doing it that way. And we know we get good results the way your neighbors are doing it. So make sure you’re doing it that way.
And that’s when I came to the realization, I was like, we could teach math a whole lot better than the way we’re doing right now and get kids super engaged in math, if we only had a little bit of freedom to do things differently.
ALEC PATTON: Like Matt, Brian knew school didn’t need to be this way. He was forced to be boring as a matter of policy. So Matt had his elementary school, he had his ship, and of course, he’d always have Paris. And Brian had tech ed. As for Charlene Collins, Director of Secondary Education, she’d had her glimpse of what education can be at a time that, it’s fair to say, most people do not remember particularly fondly, middle school. She was going to Greenfield Middle School, a magnet school in Philadelphia.
CHARLENE COLLINS: I became a middle school teacher because of my middle school teachers at that magnet school. They were phenomenal people. They brought literature alive for me. I don’t remember reading most of the things I read in high school, but I remember reading everything I read in seventh and eighth grade.
ALEC PATTON: And why was that? What did do they do?
CHARLENE COLLINS: They were in the moment. When they did Shakespeare, they got in that moment. They lived it. They reenacted scenes, and they brought you with– like you hung on their every word. And I always remember my seventh grade teacher would always say, her favorite phrase was, you had the audacity not to come in here without my homework. Every kid would say something like that, we were like, oh, someone must feel– somebody didn’t bring in their homework. They were just great people and just down to earth. You could tell they were children of the ’60s movement, ’70s movement, and just very carefree. And they was passionate about what they did.
ALEC PATTON: And there was something else that was important to Charlene, which is shared in common with Matt.
CHARLENE COLLINS: Every place I worked, it was like a work family. So that was really important.
ALEC PATTON: So Charlene, Brian, and Matt, along with Dr. Marseille and Colin, were the initial team. Here’s how they got together.
CHARLENE COLLINS: Brian and I were hired on the same day. And Matt came shortly thereafter. When I came here, PBL was in the works, like the first team had already went out to High Tech High the spring before I came.
ALEC PATTON: We talked about that trip in the last episode. Charlene, Matt, and Brian, got brought up to speed pretty quickly.
MATT PIMENTAL: We were brand new, and Dr. Marseille was like, hey, I want you to be on this team.
BRIAN RILEY: There was an invitation to a meeting.
ALEC PATTON: So what happened in that meeting?
MATT PIMENTAL: The ball was already rolling on trying to make it a reality. There was just still a lot of questions about what year one was going to look like. Was it going to be in this grade level or that grade level, and how many groups of kids would it be. And it was a lot of what is the right path to take to get this thing off the ground kind of questions.
BRIAN RILEY: And I think there were a lot of questions about like what do we need? Like who do we need in terms of what are we going to be teaching, and what kind of projects are they going to be making, and what do we need to make sure they can actually complete those projects. I don’t know if it was that meeting or another, but we were throwing out all kinds of ideas in terms of the content areas.
And then the special areas also, in terms of getting support from art teachers, or woodshop teachers, and that sort of thing. Because one of the concerns was, what skills do our teachers have in terms of designing projects and leading students from a design to a finished, completed, successful project?
ALEC PATTON: To find answers, the new team went to High Tech High. For Charlene, what was most powerful about the trip was seeing something in real life that so far have been totally theoretical for her.
CHARLENE COLLINS: Hearing about project based learning, and then seeing it, for me, was a game changer, in a sense. Because the way it was explained, everything is projects, projects, project, projects, and I was like, so I get what kids can walk away from with it, but what does that really look like? So going to High Tech High helped me see like, OK. There is some direct instruction sometimes. It has to happen, and it does occur.
ALEC PATTON: For Brian and Matt, what was most powerful was seeing hallways covered in student work.
MATT PIMENTAL: Walking on the campus of High Tech High and seeing all the student work displayed, for me, it was just an immediate light bulb which just went off. I was like, oh. This is how you make it happen at secondary. This is how you make it happen for high school kids. Oh, you can do this.
I mean, I knew you could do this, but I didn’t know you could do this until– and it’s sort of like having that student work there, which makes the theory of it sort of manifest in front of you, is just very powerful. It’s one thing to see pictures of it, or to understand it intellectually. But it’s another thing to see it with your own two eyes and to recognize that this is all student-produced work, and that rigor can happen.
That’s the number one concern almost everybody has about PBL. It’s that you’re ditching rigor in favor of freedom, so to speak. But when you see it, it’s like, yeah, that’s not what this is about at all. That doesn’t even really capture the real debate. So for me, that was just instantly powerful. And I went from being a passive person on the team to being its most fervent advocate, I guess you could say.
And I still didn’t know enough about Cheltenham to know if this was quote-unquote “the right fit for Cheltenham.” I knew that it didn’t matter. It was the right fit for kids.
ALEC PATTON: When they got back to Cheltenham, they had big decisions to make. First off, how big should this program be at the start? Brian was ready to go all in.
BRIAN RILEY: I think, in my mind, it was why are we starting small? This would be good for everybody. And kind of ignoring the fact that nobody knows how to teach in this model. But let’s do it. Anyway the initial thought was we were going to launch in two grade levels at once. Thank god we didn’t do that, looking back at it. The way we started was maybe too big, even the way we did start, with just one grade.
ALEC PATTON: Mike Kwas, who you heard at the start of the episode, and who’s one of the teachers in that first year, definitely wishes that, at the very least, the first year was a little less conspicuous.
MIKE KWAS: This decision is beyond my pay grade, but to look 10,000 feet up, if it was possible to start without all the fanfare and all the– guess what everybody? We’re going to revolutionize education– and just quietly do our thing, it’s possible that some things would have organically come into places without the resistance from the quote unquote “system.”
ALEC PATTON: The team also had to figure out the schedule. And while everything we’re talking about is important, I think changing the schedule is probably the biggest single thing a school can do to increase the chances that project-based learning will be successful. Colin McCarthy, who you met in episode one, definitely felt this way. And he made it a condition for the Avalon Foundation’s involvement in the project from his very first meeting with Dr. Marseille.
COLIN MCCARTHY: You really need time in the day if you’re going to do quality project-based learning. You really need time to develop a different culture than is found in most comprehensive high schools. You need to create this new culture of exploration, and ownership, and engagement, and authentic learning, and failure, and critique, and et cetera, et cetera. And that’s just not how most high schools do things.
I knew that we had to work towards creating a cocoon, which ended up being almost half a day that the students were allowed to be in this project-based learning environment, the whole morning, creating a cocoon within which they could create this wonderful culture and do this exciting work.
ALEC PATTON: OK. When you put it like that, it sounds easy. But in a school with 1,300 students, there are a lot of moving parts. What do you do about foreign languages, jazz band, choir, AP classes? High schools are complicated. Here’s what they came up with.
MATT PIMENTAL: The students who opt in for the PBL block, as we’re calling it, they take their English, their social studies, and their science class, plus an additional period-long course, which is just called PBL seminar, all together as one four-period block, which winds up being a little bit more than half of their school day.
ALEC PATTON: Right. Every day.
MATT PIMENTAL: Every day. And during that block, that’s the time when they have their– they rotate through their three PBL courses, plus the fourth class. And so it’s meant to be a sort of intensive, unified experience.
ALEC PATTON: So Matt, so I’m a ninth grade student. I get off the bus at school. At 7:25, does PBL block start straight away?
MATT PIMENTAL: Yes. They start the day with PBL.
ALEC PATTON: So from then until lunch, I’m in all PBL. What happens in the afternoon? What am I doing?
MATT PIMENTAL: So afternoon, they take their math course. And then there’s room for two electives. Most of the students taking one of those electives as a language course.
ALEC PATTON: Right.
MATT PIMENTAL: And then there’s usually one extra elective there. And kids take all kinds of different things. Because it is a large, comprehensive high school. There’s lots of offerings.
ALEC PATTON: And how many students is it doing PBL block?
BRIAN RILEY: That first year?
ALEC PATTON: Sure. Yeah.
BRIAN RILEY: I think the first year we ended up– by the end of the year, we were at like 62 students.
ALEC PATTON: OK. So if I’m one of the PBL teachers, what am I doing in the afternoon? Am I– are those my only students?
MATT PIMENTAL: So some of this comes down to the nature of the contract between the teachers union and the school district, essentially. So the contract stipulates that the teachers teach five courses a day. So four of those five courses are the PBL courses.
ALEC PATTON: Right.
MATT PIMENTAL: And then the fifth course is an additional course. So if you’re an English teacher, you’re teaching the PBL block. And then you have one other English class that you teach in the afternoon.
ALEC PATTON: This it boggles my mind. Because that extra class means that the teachers at Cheltenham aren’t being PBL teachers instead of being traditional teachers. They’re being PBL teachers in addition to being traditional teachers. So how are they going to find people crazy– excuse me– passionate enough to do this?
Well, obviously it wasn’t for everyone. Here’s seventh grade teacher Isaac Stanford to make an obvious, but extremely important point.
ISAAC STANFORD: You can’t assign a teacher to do this, I don’t think, without their signing on and actually believing in it. If you just plug in a teacher and say you’re doing PBL, because that’s the opening, it’s not going to be at all PBL.
ALEC PATTON: Here’s how Cheltenham superintendent Dr. Marseille puts it.
WAGNER MARSEILLE: Do I think that all of our teachers can do that pedagogically? Yes. Do I think that every teacher can do that with regards to their belief in students? No.
ALEC PATTON: So rather than telling all of ninth grade, you are now part of the PBL initiative, here’s how to plan a project, the team invited teachers to apply. PBL wasn’t going to be a requirement, it was going to be an opportunity, an escape pod for those teachers we talked about earlier, standing on burning platforms.
The team advertised internally and assembled a team of four, three subject teachers, and one special ed teacher. You heard from one of those subject teachers at the start of the episode. Mike Kwas, who’s also a professional musician. He actually went on tour with Sister Sledge while he was teaching fifth and sixth grade.
[MUSIC – SISTER SLEDGE, “WE ARE FAMILY”]
This inspired him to create the on-tour project.
MIKE KWAS: The kids got into groups, and there was a tour manager and a booking agent, and the rest were artists. And we offered them gigs in all these different locations in the world. It was myself and my partner teacher. The venues that they were researching about were real venues. And I actually showed them behind-the-scenes of videos that I shot through my experiences with the group. And they had to budget, and figure out if they could afford the money, and look up hotel flights, and all those things, and they also then put a performance together in front of the entire school in a festival-style show.
So I was talking about that project with one of our teachers, Karen, who’s now in project-based learning, who was trying to get a pool of teachers for an interview. And I already had a high school social studies cert, and she said Mike, I think this program might be for you.
ALEC PATTON: For Mike, this wasn’t just about doing projects with kids. PBL was a path to a much bigger goal. Breaking down the educational divide that he saw in his school and across the county.
MIKE KWAS: We had what we call the tale of two Cheltenhams. You have your honors academic-minded kids, and then you have your kids who aren’t interested in any of that. And it does kind of correlate somewhat as far as diversity is concerned and racially. So for somebody who’s been teaching for– here in the district 20 years. I live in the district. One of my reasons for coming here was to bridge that gap. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to find the real Cheltenham.
ALEC PATTON: Also on the team was biology teacher Johanna Cella. You heard from her earlier. She was pretty much just fed up with everything.
JOHANNA CELLA: I was originally very apprehensive, actually. And I wasn’t sure if this was really going to be the right move for me. But I was having kind of a difficult school year. And I was thinking to myself, maybe I need to change the way I’m approaching teaching. And maybe the reason why this year wasn’t going as well is because what I was doing was just not vibing with the way that I want to teach, and the way I want to have a classroom.
ALEC PATTON: And what was it that was difficult?
JOHANNA CELLA: I was trying to corral kids to do their worksheets, or to do their labs, or to follow in pace with my colleagues, and make sure that we’re hitting this benchmark and that benchmark, and making sure my tests were happening around the same time as them. And I felt like there was this constant race. I found that a lot of my students were just really disengaged as well. And their desire to do something else and not want to follow, it created this friction. And so that friction was really wearing on me.
The third subject teacher was English teacher Brian Smith. For him PBL, was an opportunity to bring his passions from outside school into the classroom. Brian’s a writer, a podcaster, and artist, a gardener, and he could see how much richer school would be, both for the kids and for him, if you could bring these into his teaching. And he saw this vision come to life when the Avalon Foundation flew the teachers out to High Tech High.
BRIAN SMITH: That was almost a religious experience. You get there. And you think, finally. What I’ve been saying so frequently so often, people are living this way. People are teaching this way. So it was like coming to the promised land.
ALEC PATTON: And on this third trip to High Tech High, Cheltenham and the Avalon Foundation set something up for the teachers that no other school had done before.
MATT PIMENTAL: They embedded with High Tech High teachers for a week. So they’re sort of trailing a teacher, seeing how it’s done, so to speak. I think the teachers really congealed as a team on that trip. And then when we came back, it really felt very mission oriented. Like we all recognize that nobody knows how to do this.
Brian and I were very upfront. We’re like, we have no idea what we’re doing. We’re all learning this together, and just circling the wagon, so to speak, and knowing that we were not going to do it right. And everybody knew that we weren’t going to do it right. But it was like, let’s do the best we can, and then start learning from it as quickly as possible.
ALEC PATTON: It was now springtime. The program was launching with real-life students in September. The team was meeting every Wednesday after school to plan. It was a tight timeline. Here’s Charlene.
CHARLENE COLLINS: We basically went to High Tech High, and then Matt came back and followed it up. And then we did like a boot camp in the summer. And then in September, boom. Within six months, our PBL was up and running. I know it was stressful for the teachers. And we were over here a lot then, just to make sure, is it going OK.
ALEC PATTON: And Mike pointed out to me that for the teachers, the whole concept of meeting and planning together was unfamiliar.
MIKE KWAS: We were just one team. But there are no teams. Now get into that piece, right? You get a bunch of high school teachers that have never collaborated together. What does collaboration mean to them?
ALEC PATTON: As the teachers were working this out, they had to add one more group in order for this experiment to work. They needed students. PBL at Cheltenham is an opt-in program. Students, at least in theory, sign up by choice, rather than because someone else has put them there. We’ll get into some of the implications this in a later episode, but what it meant at this point was they needed to convince eighth graders to sign up for a totally new, untested program for their first year of high school. And if the students didn’t sign up, there wouldn’t be a program.
To tell us how they were recruited, here are two students from the inaugural PBL class, Kayla and Simon. They were in 11th grade when we did this interview, but here’s what they remembered then about finding out about the program in eighth grade.
KAYLA: I think in my English class, I remember, we took a survey to see if we would like PBL a lot. And then maybe a couple of weeks after that, we came to the high school, and we had like a PBL orientation seminar to see if we would like the projects in PBL. And it was like for an hour, maybe. And we just met the teachers at PBL, and we learned some of the projects we were going to be doing. And I thought it was going to be cool, so that’s how I was introduced to the PBL.
SIMON: I had almost the same experience pretty much. Mrs. Shaffran who’s our science teacher this year, she came into my English class in eighth grade and pretty much just explained that Cheltenham is making the program. And I immediately was like– knew I would be involved with it, because my whole life I’ve been interested in design and engineering and things like that.
ALEC PATTON: Mrs. Shaffran there is Karen Shaffran a widely-known, and more important, widely-trusted middle school teacher who visited all the eighth grade classes to tell them about the PBL program. She’s also the one who told Mike Kwas he should apply. So Simon’s motivations for signing up were pretty clear. But why did Kayla do it?
KAYLA: I think I joined it because I didn’t really like the vibe of the classes and everything, so I really wanted to see what it would be like to be in a big group with a bunch of people that I would see every day, and see how it would change me, I guess. And I just wanted to spend more time with more people. And I wanted to make more relationships, I guess. And I thought PBL would be the way to do that, because we’re with the same people all the time.
ALEC PATTON: I asked Kayla to tell me more about that vibe.
KAYLA: I think everyone’s eighth grade year is not the best. Mine wasn’t. Probably because I didn’t really have a lot of friends there. I’m not really good at making friends. And I was quiet, and I was a loner, I guess. But when I joined PBL, I couldn’t just sit there and be a loner. I had to do something. I had to speak. It really changed me, I guess you can say, PBL. And eighth grade, I could just be invisible, basically. But in PBL, I can’t be invisible. I have to do something.
ALEC PATTON: So now, Dr. Marseille and Colin McCarthy had a team. They had a schedule. They had a hallway in the high school dedicated to PBL. And they had students. And in September, for better or worse, they would have a program. That’s next time on High Tech High Unboxed.
[MUSIC – BROTHER HERSHEL]
High Tech Unboxed is written hosted and edited by me. Alex Patton. Our theme music is by Brother Hershel And the putting the team together music in this episode is “Jetfire” by Jeff II.
Thanks for listening.