Students at the San Diego County Office of Education's Momentum Learning schools are diving into deep
topics thanks to a continued focus on project-based learning.
Throughout March, 11 Momentum Learning sites hosted student
learning exhibitions on topics ranging from food justice and homelessness to
willpower and the future. Community members, parents, and Momentum team members
were wowed by the students’ work, which included artwork, a town hall
discussion, documentaries, and other presentations.
“The student exhibitions are a vital part of the way we do
project-based learning because they increase the authenticity and urgency of
learning for the students,” said Jessica McCreary, interim executive
director of Momentum Learning.
At Escondido Blended Community School, the exhibition
featured a group-project documentary on choices, as well as individual
presentations on cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and Alzheimer’s
“It’s really a big deal to see the culmination of their work
in front of their family and community members,” Principal Joel Spengler
said. “I’m proud of all the students here.”
The students' 20-minute documentary “Choices,” was inspired
by the homeless people and activities they saw in Grape Day Park, located next
to the school’s previous location.
“We were talking about the homeless problem and asked, ‘What
if they had a story?’ ” said
student Antonio Lopez, 17. “One guy said he was a professor
but had one little mess-up and he became homeless. It changed our way of seeing
The topic launched an extensive discussion on choices, and
over the subsequent weeks teachers invited guest speakers from the Escondido
History Center, the District Attorney’s Office, and county health, who spoke
about homelessness, the effects of marijuana on brain development, and more.
The students researched science and history, and interviewed classmates and
some of the people who live in the park.
“This project is dear to our heart,” said teacher Penny
McNeil, who nurtured the students’ work along with teacher Pam
Berlinguette, and coaches Melanie Tolan and Sara Matthews.
The exhibitions began as a pilot program at a handful of
Momentum Learning sites in the 2015-16 school year. The number of students
participating has expanded dramatically with more teachers and schools taking
part in interdisciplinary project-based learning.