Teachers Must Design in a Personalized Learning Environment

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The Greenwich High School Innovation Lab is where hands-on learning takes place. Students apply what they are learning within the classroom to a project of their choosing, digging deeper into the principles covered in class. But even though students are given the freedom to select their projects, the teachers design those projects to remain within the confines of the lesson.

“As a teacher, you know there’s no way they could phrase something around (the idea you choose) without engaging with the core content that you want them to encounter,” explains Dr. Sarah Goldin, the science teacher of Innovation Lab.

A recent solar panel challenge was designed exactly that way. The students were asked to create something that incorporated electrical energy, was portable, sustainable, and met a need. But even though that task was open ended, the teachers had to properly lay out the assignment to ensure the curriculum was covered.

“We knew ahead of time based upon the math and the chemistry of batteries that in order to do that successfully, students were going to have to wrestle with logorithms and the yin to the yang of exponentials and logistic curves and then for the chemistry there was no way they could do it without engaging with the fundamentals of circuits and oxidation reduction reactions to explain how a battery work,” said Goldin.

What did the students choose?

Goldin published a blog highlighting the solar power project and what each of the students came up with. Projects include an electric go-cart, solar-powered Tyke car, atmospheric water generator, Nanoporous Graphene Desalination Membrane Documentary, hydropower devices, a proposal to educate students and staff about the issues of sustainable energy, a food prep cart, windmill, robot, cell phone carger, grill, skateboard, and solar powered Raspberry Pi.

Innovation Lab math teacher Brian Walach even got in on using the projects by charging his cell phone!

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