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Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to visit our blog. We would like to invite you to contribute your ideas related to professional development in this forum. We hope to offer all teachers at BHS the opportunity to have input in the PD you are experiencing this year, and to reflect on ideas and practices of our outstanding faculty.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

BHS AP Environmental Science Program - A Model of Project-Based Learning

For the last seven years, students in Ms. Mardi Mertens' AP Environmental Class have been designing architectural models of solar homes based on Solar Energy Education Program design principles.  These models are planned, designed and constructed with the guidance of Ms. Mertens and local architects who visit the classroom and consult with students on their projects.

I had the pleasure to visit Ms. Mertens' class at the end of last semester as her students worked in groups to construct their solar homes from their own original plans (including drawings showing 3-4 separate elevations).  Their homes were required to consider building orientation and include design features such as more South facing windows and fewer North and Western windows, thermal mass, shading, weatherization, ventilation and solar electric array.

Local architects Cate Leger and Greg Van Mechelen then visited the class to offer critiques, and students had the opportunity to make necessary adjustments.  Finally, students were required to compose a museum-quality commentary that accompanied an exhibit installation in the BHS library.

According to Ilse Rueda, a student in the class who now attends San Francisco State University, "I don't think a lot of high school students have ever really studied this in depth - it was fun and also taught us a lot - it's a new idea and it's out there, but we didn't really know how important it was until we had the hands-on experience.  It was valuable to me because now, after the project, I realize that it's really important to conserve energy,  find ways to renew energy that is all around us, and put pressure on our government to make renewable energy sources a priority. It also motivated us to take part in a social issue by engaging us so deeply in the learning and allowing us to take ownership of the project."

Ilse's comments underscore the benefits of the kind of rigorous project-based learning experiences students at Berkeley High enjoy throughout all our small learning communities.  We would like to commend Ms. Mertens for making learning so meaningful for her students.

Would you like to share a best practice or an example of powerful teaching and learning?  If so, email me and I will feature it on this blog!

1 comment:

  1. See this article from the NY Times:

    The 'Super Heroes' Are Already Here
    Dec. 23, 2011, 2:28 p.m.
    After conducting my instructional observational rounds of teachers one recent week, I could not help but recall the visceral reaction I experienced when I saw the documentary “Waiting for Superman” over a year ago.

    The first thing I wanted to do after leaving the Houston Street cinema in a huff that night was haul a documentary film crew into my public school, Millennium Art Academy, and make an immediate sequel that would depict a great number of public school “Supermen” and “Superwomen” inside one small, Bronx Title 1 high school.
    (follow the link above for the rest of the article)
    Make sure and read the comments!