CSA New Tech includes environment in Project-Based Learning curriculum

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Bees, baby chicks and birdhouses have all been a part of Project-Based Learning at Columbus Signature Academy New Tech High School this year.

The Buck Institute for Education defines PBL as “a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.”

These problem-solving efforts were on display May 5 as students took part in an afterschool environmental work day, under the leadership of science teacher and Environmental Club mentor Bridget Steele. Some of the day’s work included desodding grass, painting picnic tables and planting flowers.

The environmental club’s goal is to “bring more life to our outdoor campus” and support native species, said Steele. Class projects have also contributed to this endeavor.

For instance, students have been working on a bird sanctuary. The project began with the study of songbirds during a unit on evolution.

“Then we developed bird houses or feeders with those specific songbirds in mind, with each team focusing on a songbird that’s here during the winter that needs our support,” said Steele.

They also raised funds so that they could build a pergola, both for shade and as a place to suspend some bird houses and feeders. The pergola was assembled from a kit. During the environmental work day, students worked on bases for the area where the pergola will be placed and finished up work on some picnic tables that will be placed near the structure.

Recent projects have also focused on pollinators, with Steele’s environmental science students building beehives from kits.

“We built one for ourselves and four other community partners,” she said. “These community partners have been wanting to beekeep for a while. So we wrapped our project up into theirs. And so we built the hives for them and painted them as they wished.”

For more on this story, see Saturday’s Republic.