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The Intellectual Virtues Academy Blog

What is Project-Based Learning?

As an innovator in public education, IVA High empowers learners to impact their communities while developing a deeper understanding of themselves, academics, and the world through Project-Based Learning (PBL). What is PBL and how is it transforming education? PBL looks different from school to school and even from teacher to teacher. Let’s take a closer look at PBL and how this method is making a big impact in the lives of students at our tuition-free charter high school

projectsharingTwo students from IVA High share art and reflections from a school based project during the Exhibition of Learning

What is Project Based Learning? 

PBL is a teaching method in which teachers guide students to learn by engaging in personally meaningful projects. Instead of being a passive learner, students actively apply content knowledge and skills from the major disciplines (math, reading, science) to real-life scenarios. 

Teachers at IVA High design project cycles throughout the school year that connect to Common Core and California State Standards. Chosen projects have authentic community partnerships and provide opportunities for students to collaborate with industry professionals to solve real life problems.

An IVA High student gives a thumbs up while showcasing his project during the Exhibition of Learning

Why is Project Based Learning Better?

The Buck Institute for Project Based Learning confirms that the benefits to PBL are far-reaching. Advantages of learning through PBL include: 

  • engaged hearts and minds
  • deeper learning 
  • exposure to adults and careers 
  • a sense of purpose
  • success skills
  • rewarding teacher relationships
  • creativity and technology

At IVA High, PBL takes students outside the four walls of our classrooms on an almost-weekly basis to learn from experts and organizations in our community. We choose field trips that connect students with mentors from our local area in order to establish a bridge from the classroom to the community. 

Members of the IVA High community pose together with a poster with the title Operation Greenspace. They are standing in front of a light blue wall with clocks set to world time zones.

What are Examples of Project Based Learning?

Three recent projects completed by IVA High students include: 

💡Budgeting for Life: Algebra students look at what it means to live on their own by creating a budget for living in Southern California. Students research topics like career options, qualifications needed and potential salaries, as well as the cost of transportation, housing and utilities. They use the logic of algebra to understand and solve real-life problems. 

💡Build a Room: This interdisciplinary project (Ethics & Geometry) challenged students to design a room that incorporated the principles of geometry, accessibility and universal design. Students investigated the needs of people with various disability profiles, built rooms utilizing learning from geometry class, met with a professional architect, and ultimately designed a room to satisfy the specific lifestyle needs of their “client”.

💡We Are What We Eat: In Ethics, students explored moral theories like Utilitarianism, Deontology, Virtue Ethics, and Care Ethics. Care Ethics is a moral theory that focuses on fostering and supporting caring relationships, emphasizing emotional connection and the relational nature of self. Students investigated this connection through food. After researching how food evolves in multicultural communities, students explored the foods and cultures that characterize Long Beach. Students created a menu that represented Long Beach, historically and culturally. Then they prepared and served a meal to our community at our Exhibition of Learning.

In the culmination of our learning, IVA High students present their findings at our yearly Spring Exhibition of Learning. The school and local community are invited to view student projects and share the impact of their inquiries, bringing the inquiry cycle full circle from question to action. 

Ready to enroll in a school that puts project based learning into action? Our small but mighty high school is still enrolling for the 2023-24 school year. We’re tuition-free and ready for you.

About IVA High

IVA High is a fully accredited, tuition-free public high school in Long Beach, California with a mission to empower students to think well: creatively, critically, and with a capacity for self-growth. Our learner-centered approach puts students in charge of their education, while dual enrollment and paid internships transform learning into action. Students come for college prep, STEAM and limitless options for their future; they stay for smaller, safer learning in a vibrant, caring community. Join us–we’re building curious minds & empowered communities.