the Bridge Project/Southern High School
Images of Students or their Work (typical).
Working in teams was an essential element
of the Bridge Project. Students formed
teams with a representative set of skills.
Ms. Texas writes about the Bridge Project: "The first year the results of the project were a little disappointing. Students did not make the connection between the physics and math content and the building of the bridges. They did impress me, however, with their bridge models. The articles, on the other hand, were not impressive and this was where they were expected to make the connections between content and application. This told me that I needed to make my expectations clear and that I needed to make the connections to the content more concrete. It also prompted me to assign the project before I taught the content so that students could make the connections as we studied the material. By creating a "need to know," students were more focused on the outcome and the application of the knowledge.

Initially, I thought I could deliver all of the content needed for the students to complete the project--the research skills, article and proposal writing, math/physics concepts, etc. However, I soon realized there was not enough time to do all of these things within a 55-minute class period and do justice to my own content area. Therefore, I decided to collaborate with the English Department. The first few years it meant collaborating with seven different teachers (since my students had various teachers). They were very helpful, but I decided it would be easier to collaborate with only one. So, I asked my principal if I could do this. The third year of the project I taught a collaborative class with an English teacher. We had back-to-back class periods so that we could block the time as necessary. Having a math and physics background allowed me to provide the content knowledge for both areas and eliminated the need to find further expertise.

As I became more knowledgeable about the project I was able to embed more standards. Working closely with my state curriculum guide, I was able to identify items I was covering in the project that I had not realized were standards because they were in other content areas such as fine arts or social studies. I also realized that if I wanted to devote more time to the project, it should be proportional to the number of standards I was covering. Overall, the quality of student work went up as I learned from past mistakes and was able to give students better prompts and guidance. It was also helpful to show students exemplars from the previous years so they could understand the expectations. One major shift was to assign the project at the beginning of the semester. I would present the project and then ask students what they needed to know in order to complete the requirements. Together we mapped the content, skills, and competencies that they would need in order to complete the work. This way, students took ownership in what we would be learning for the semester."


Project Based Learning