What do you get when you combine innovation, creativity and design with public education? The Metropolitan Schools of Design (Metro E and Metro Prep), which are a magnet K-12 feeder pattern in Corpus Christi, TX. The Metro grant writers and visionaries chose project-based learning as their instructional model. They contracted with Engage! Learning Organization to design and facilitate a customized training and curriculum writing process to prepare teachers to implement standards-based project-based learning schoolwide.
The mission of Metro Schools of Design is to foster innovation, creativity, and design thinking. Project-based learning provides students the type of relevant, student-directed learning experiences that allow them to acquire these traits. At Metro E, students work in collaborative teams from Kindergarten through 6th grade to create an on-site science museum of simple machines, present models to the city council for the upcoming water park to be built in Corpus Christi, to implement a recycling program, and to teach the community about the dangers of plastic bags.
The secondary Metro Prep students, including grades 7-12 which are housed on the Miller High School campus as a school within a school, are engaged in proposing new solutions for the Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi, finding solutions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, proposing which governmental agencies should be eliminated, and designing a better prosthetic arm for veterans. All Metro students receive grades for the projects for content as well as the soft skills of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and professional ethics.
Metro students utilize design thinking to critique each other and make their designs better. Engage! developed a protocol for Metro to use to facilitate this process of creating more rigor and iterations in process. As one third-grader recently explained, “We are going to have a pin-up of our design at the end of the day. That is when other people can tell us what they liked about our ideas and what we could do to improve them.”
The teachers work in the same way, designing learning experiences that are relevant and engaging for students based on real problems or challenges within the local and global communities. “We are learning to collaborate just like the students,” says one Metro teacher. “Teaching is typically a solitary, autonomous job, but with PBL, it becomes a process where we are daily working on our craft and seeking input from each other to get better.”