Commons Project/Mendocino High School
Images of Students or their Work (typical).
Patience, motivation, and focus help
students and teachers accomplish
this multi-year project.
Reflecting on the Commons Project, Coordinator Deena Zarlin says: "It is a challenge taking on a long-term project. When we realized it would take four years we worried about sustaining interest and support among students and community members. But we haven't had that problem. Everyone knows about the Commons Project and is somehow involved. Students who have graduated return to campus to check the progress on the space. Younger siblings of upper classmen look forward to entering the high school to be a part of the work.

There have been some hard times, though. For instance, after two years of planning it looked as though we would never get the project moving. A big turning point was the decision to create the Commons Construction class. It was so important to make this project part of the school's academic structure. The only way the construction teacher was able to lead the class was to renegotiate his schedule with the Principal. Administrative support for the Commons Project has been essential. We changed Principals midway through the project and were fortunate that the incoming Principal believed in and wanted to play a role in the work.

Another challenging time was after we demolished the old commons space. We had to live with a torn up area for a long time and for a while it seemed like the work would never get done. You can only accomplish so much when students are only working 2 or 4 hours a week on the construction site. But they made progress slowly. Finishing the stage was an important milestone because it was the first real sign that the commons was taking its final shape. I think this has been a great learning experience for the students. Not just because of the skills they gain, but because it's a chance to see how significant change can happen slowly over time. Not everything in this world is immediate. It's also been a great learning experience for the adults. We've learned we don't have to be afraid to take on large-scale projects. There are still challenges ahead. We don't have all the money in place yet, so fundraising continues to be an issue. But we have confidence that the work will get done on schedule because the commitment of so many people--both in the school and the community--has given the project a stable foundation."


Project Based Learning