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November 21, 2014

The Principal Project

by Dr. Eliezer Jones

Growing up in Los Angeles, I have become accustom to seeing the occasional celebrity at my local eatery, cafe and entertainment locales. However, unlike many near me, I generally have had little to no interest in getting their autograph or take a picture with them. This all changed this Monday when I ran up to a celebrity and asked to take a selfie. Here is the picture of myself and Mr. Larry Rosenstock.


Ok. You may be asking what movie was Larry in? Is he an old TV star? How come I never heard of him? Well, the fact is, he is not an actor. He is the CEO of High Tech High, expert in Project-Based Learning (PBL) and as big a celebrity in my mind than any blockbuster movie star.

I had the privilege of being invited this week by the Covenant Foundation to attend a consultation meeting on Project-Based Learning. It was a fantastic day with a wonderful group of educators and, of course, Larry Rosenstock. We discussed Project-Based Learning in Jewish education and how we can all support each other in increasing innovation, creativity and meaningful learning in our Jewish educational settings. I plan on discussing PBL at Valley Torah in future posts, but I did want to share one new initiative that plans on accomplishing these goals.

As part of our vision at VTHS to support more real-world connections with the learning, an increase in authentic learning and the integration of more creative opportunities for our students, the Principal Project was devised and launched! Click here to view the Principal Project site.

The Principals Project is an opportunity for VTHS students to explore and dive deeper into their personal interests and what they are passionate about. The goal is to support our students in discovering, exploring and refining their passions so that when they graduate they stand out to college admission officers, the workforce and find meaning in all that they do!

The Principal Project is a year long independent project, with my support, that begins with each student choosing an interest of theirs within a specific framework for their grade. Then in teams the students will explore their interests and prepare to present on that interest at an end of the year exhibition. The 9th graders will choose a profession that interests them and the 10th graders choose a University that ties into their interests. They will both research their choices and at the end of the year both grades will produce a presentation and host a job and college fair. The 11th and 12th graders will choose a social problem in the world, explore that issue, develop an innovative solution to the problem and at the end of the year host a social entrepreneurship fair where they will present their solutions.

All the students are currently in phase one of the project where they are making their choices by December 8th, 2014. The next phase will involve the deep dive where they research their interest and prepare to gain the expertise needed for the third phase which is presentation and project development. The final phase is the public expedition where they present their interests, research and ideas to the community.

I am excited to see what our students will produce, but more importantly I am proud to be at a school that supports our students interests and helps them explore them deeply. As the great educational philosopher John Dewey said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” We cannot and must not separate the life of our students from their learning and vice versa. This project is one way to ensure that does not happen.

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