Meet Nya. Nya is a middle school student who attends DC Everest Idea School, a school that is “project-based, student-initiated and community-focused.” A school known to challenge students to develop critical thinking and prepare them for success in the world, Idea creates a safe, positive environment for students to thrive.
Nya is currently a student of Mr. Luke Stachovak, a founding member of Idea and former “traditional” mathematics educator. Having both transitioned from conventional classrooms to a project-based atmosphere, Luke and Nya are speaking with Headrush to tell us about their journeys.
An advocate and believer of PBL Luke enjoys seeing the progress students like Nya make while leading and designing their own project work. Luke discusses how Idea School was “built off the backs of others” and evolved with the support of veteran PBL schools in the Wisconsin PBL community, such as Valley New School and TAGOS Leadership Academy. In starting Idea with 60 students grades six to twelve, Luke explains how PBL initially felt like “a big stretch” from his math background.
“My classroom order went from having rows and desks to a wide-open space, so it has just been a process of letting go,” explains Luke. “You have to embrace the chaos that is project-based learning sometimes and trust the process. You have to trust that even when it looks chaotic or like students are not being as productive as they could be, that there is actually really good work happening. It’s messy and it’s not always perfect, but the results can be really awesome, especially when students like Nya excel in their projects.”
With Luke supporting her latest project endeavor, here Nya tells us a bit about her PBL experiences at Idea School.
So Nya, tell me a little bit about your previous school experience before Idea.
Nya: I actually went to John Muir Middle School. The learning was really different from what I am doing now. It was really structured and it was so boring. This is way more fun!
What is your classroom experience like at Idea School?
Nya: Now it is more like I get to do what I want. I get to learn about things that I like, like making videos, and I don’t have to learn about boring things that I’m going to forget in the future. I’m not going to remember things that I learned at my middle school because they’re not interesting or important to me.
Tell me a little bit about your last project involving videography.
Nya: Well, my mom is actually a blogger. She does computer marketing. So she does a lot with writing and collecting photos and pictures. That’s the career I want to go in, to follow her footsteps. My mom works a lot with photography and stuff, but I am much more interested in videography. So I thought it would be fun to do a project where I could learn about it and make a few videos for her and her blog.
What did you make your videos about?
Nya: I made origami in my videos. I decided on an origami tutorial because I wanted to use little animations too. I wanted to do a little animation at the end with origami, so I just came up with three different types of videos that I wanted to make and those are what popped into my head.
That’s great that you were learning a skill that could help your mom in a way. What was your project process like?
Nya: When I make videos, I start with a lot of storyboarding and planning. I plan out how I’m going to make it. I storyboard for a long time, and it is easy to keep track of my planning on Headrush because of the project taskboard. There is this tab on the taskboard I use a lot and it is really, really helpful. It helps me organize myself because I love being organized! I was doing many things at once, and wrote my paper as I was figuring out the plans for a video. After I presented my project by showing the videos. We had check-in meetings to check the progress and it worked out pretty well.
So it was helpful to have the Headrush structure in place to track your project work from start to finish?
Nya: Yes, definitely.
Luke: Yeah that’s what Nya has said to me before too. Headrush provides the flow that she can go through. Just being able to see everything laid out is really helpful.
What were some of the challenges you faced during the project?
Nya: I’m a perfectionist, so I like everything to be perfect, and when it comes to video making, I really want to be organized. So when I was making the videos, when I couldn’t get the light perfect or I couldn’t set up the props like I wanted them to look like, I’d get really frustrated. I’d want it to look like a Hollywood movie, which it is not really reasonable to compare it to that.
So you had very high standards for yourself and really pushed yourself to build your skills in the process. What are you proud of now looking back at your project work?
Nya: I’m really proud of how my videos actually turned out. I really like them a lot. I also liked the presentation too. I thought I did a good job explaining to my class even though it was long. I shared all the information that I researched, and it was so much to take in.
Luke, what can you tell us about the skills Nya built that went into her project?
Luke: I think she glossed over a lot of her work when she was talking about the process. Nya did much more research than she led onto. She researched the elements of good movie making, filmmaking techniques and things like that. There was a lot that she went through in that research phase that she didn’t give herself credit for. The storyboarding definitely played a big part in her work. But her research was extensive in preparing for her project- all the techniques and elements she had to consider- and many of those techniques showed in her videos that she made. So that was really cool to see.
What was an important lesson you learned in all of this?
Nya: Well I think I’ve definitely learned a lot about being independent, actually. I was really motivated and did so much of this on my own, even at home independently. And that is what I’ve learned so far. And I definitely learned skills in video editing, which is helpful for my mom too.
What would you say to other students who want to experience a PBL school?
Nya: In PBL, there’s a lot more freedom and it’s a lot more fun!