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News from the Education Foundation

Posted: April 16, 2014

Madison MS Busy with Project-Based Learning Projects That Include Parents and Community

Students have had a busy spring planning and implementing a variety of projects and programs bringing real world application to academic learning. Eighth Grade Social Studies students have been researching and sewing freedom quilts, 7th and 8th graders worked on committees for the Neverland Café, and art students cast clay totems and worked on a mosaic project.

Madison 7th and 8th graders practice for the Neverland Cafe coffee shop event coming up on May 1.  The students learn life skills while working on a variety of committees to plan, implement and evaluate the event.

Madison 7th and 8th graders practice for the Neverland Cafe coffee shop event coming up on May 1. The students learn life skills while working on a variety of committees to plan, implement and evaluate the event.

Madison Administration and staff recognize the importance of hands-on activities in student learning and also support the involvement of parents and community.  Parents are invited to both volunteer in the classroom and participate in the culminating activities in all of the project-based learning groups.  Culinary Arts teacher Linda Hansen has been using parents as customers and volunteers for the 16 years she has been at Madison.  This spring’s Neverland Café is the 76th coffee shop her students have hosted for the community.  Students in her Family and Consumer Science classrooms have held two other coffee shop events earlier this year – the Paris and the Sleepytime Café.

The events are always a great hit with the community and students learn career/vocational skills as they plan and implement the event.  The learning of life skills is evident when observing the students as they prepare for the Neverland Café on May 1.  Project-based learning provides authenticity of experience; students don’t just read a chapter and answer questions in the back of the book.   They learn how a food and beverage business works through active participation, whether it be marketing, working in the kitchen, taking orders, serving, running the cash register, reviewing profit/loss statements, or cleaning up.  The project experience has led to further study in high school culinary classes and careers in the hospitality industry for many students.

For the last three years teachers Claire Porter and Thaison Garcia have been collaborating with each other on the Freedom Quilt Project. Parents were actively involved in the project where they volunteered, assisted and helped develop aspects of the activity Some donated fabric scraps and sewing notions, others helped with the pinning or sewing process and batting, backing and binding the quilts.  Parents helped directly in the classroom with more complex aspects of the project and significantly contributed to the project’s success, enabling students to truly understand the significance of the quilts used by runaway slaves to navigate the Underground Railroad.  The quilts will be auctioned after being displayed in the front office.  The proceeds of the silent auction will be used to sustain the project for many years and thereby enriching and enhancing the social studies program for future 8th graders.

Art teacher Tammy Crespin is known for unusual and creative projects and this spring is no exception. She was awarded an APSEF Horizon Award last fall for her proposal entitled Mosaic and Garden Installation, which is an interdisciplinary school beautification project designed for two after school clubs.   Her art students are making clay totems, which when fired and glazed will be assembled into totem poles in a garden area as part of a school beautification project. Seventh grade science teacher Phyllis Perry’s garden club landscaped the garden area with New Mexico native plants.  The science club students got to meet and get ideas from an Albuquerque landscape architect. Parents will be helping to install the mosaic art students designed to cover the large concrete planter in front of the school.  Ms Crespin says, "Developing students' skills and citizenship are just a few of the benefits of project-based learning. But what I really love about it is students are able to apply what they know toward a real-world problem and are able to see a tangible application they can be proud of."

All of these great projects are occurring during the difficult spring testing period but students and staff are enthusiastic in their support of the importance of project-based learning.   Instructional Coach Mark Langner, who has worked with Principal Marcie Johnson for many years, says "Authentic educational experiences are key to meaningful instruction; it's a pleasure to work with such innovative teachers."