High School Students In Washington State Embrace Project-Based Learning

Ellensburg High School has introduced a new alternative learning program, Big Picture Learning, as part of its Choice Schools offerings. This program provides an in-person, project-based learning environment for students in grades 9-12, with about 50 students currently enrolled. Unlike traditional educational models that focus primarily on academic credits, Big Picture Learning evaluates students based on competencies such as social and quantitative reasoning, empirical reasoning, and personal qualities that are indicative of real-world success.

The curriculum emphasizes practical application of knowledge. For example, in a recent project, students explored real-life scenarios like buying cars, understanding advertising’s influence, and reviewing contracts, integrating subjects like math, psychology, and English to prepare for a debate on the pros and cons of moving out.

In addition to classroom activities, students engage in personal projects that reflect their interests, such as building model engines, writing graphic novels, and even fashion upcycling, which not only helps to cultivate a lifelong love for learning but also enhances their confidence through practical engagements like job shadows and internships. This personalized approach aims to accommodate diverse learning styles and prepare students for future endeavors in a way that traditional schooling may not, reflecting a broader educational trend toward more tailored and practical learning experiences.