This month, 8th graders finished presenting their Projects of Discovery (POD). Students wrote original short stories, created scale models of an eco-friendly house and Lowell’s Middle School Parkside Building, deepened their connection to family history through cultural cuisine, and studied the effects of sea level rise on countries years into the future. The 8th graders’ presentations left a memorable impression on Middle School Director Kavan Yee. “Not only did they speak with full knowledge and expertise, they spoke with passion, confidence, and a sense of pride that I have never seen in a cohort.” Equipped with this newly found wisdom and self-knowledge, 8th graders expressed interest in continuing their projects on their own committing to not only push the bounds of their projects but of themselves as independent learners.
In POD, students design and execute a project that is inspired by their interests. Working from a broad topic, each student develops a final product while learning the essential skills of project management. "PODs at their best help students gain confidence in their ability to tackle a complex topic and develop skills well beyond a basic level," says Head of School Debbie Gibbs.
POD is rooted in project-based learning (PBL) methods. "PBL is arguably the most authentic form of learning because it is a close approximation of what adults do at work every day," says Middle School Academic Technologist and POD Teacher Matt Frattali. Eighth graders flourish under PBL’s flexible framework. They learn how to devise a plan, focus their attention, and juggle multiple tasks to achieve their goals. POD provides the experience 8th graders need to develop their working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control before they enter high school where self-direction is the norm.