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Exciting new way of learning and teaching

A new approach to learning and teaching is under way at RHMS, whereby students are being taught through collaborative, project-based methods. Currently, the eighth grade students are working on a Denver tourism challenge in which groups of students are tasked with putting together a multimedia presentation based on bringing tourism to Denver.

Article and photo by Amy Shanahan

Rocky Heights Middle School (RHMS) is again leading the way in 21st century learning, with the adoption of a prototype eighth grade team that uses blended or collaborative learning to complete projects and solve real-world problems. With money from technology grants, and with a team of outstanding, strong teachers, this new team is serving as an example of how education is changing.

The eighth grade Explorer team is made up of students chosen at random, who work together daily on projects that integrate all aspects of learning. The physical “classrooms” are much different from traditional classrooms, with large, wall-mounted monitors used for differentiated instruction, large round desks with central table top monitors that accommodate numerous students, Chrome books, and coming soon, a dedicated media center.

Technology and integrated learning are central to the team’s approach, and students are regularly given projects which incorporate many aspects of learning. Their initial challenge was to create a multimedia instructional video for incoming sixth graders to help them understand the learning approach at RHMS.  Other projects will include a mock trial that will cover a devastating wild fire.  In order to prepare, the students will go on a trip to a true burn site to witness the impact of fire on local communities.  Other collaborative projects will incorporate science, health and math standards.

For students of the current generation, this way of learning is very natural. “It’s so much easier to learn this way because we grew up with technology and it makes sense to use it in school,” remarked eighth grade student Nathan Brinkerhoff.

In addition to projects, the students participate in integrated learning, whereby two or more core subjects overlap while incorporating technology and curriculum. Additionally, students are using ePortfolios to submit their papers and work electronically.

Math teacher Chris Gowing commented that this approach is much more labor intensive for the team teachers, but is also more enjoyable and challenging. “The kids are creating a very real project and producing a product that the real world appreciates,” Gowing remarked. “It’s true 21st century learning.”



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