…Riverside Train Station, Dorothy Hamil, The Riverside School Award Winning ROPES Program, the St. Paul’s Fair for All, Binney Park, the OGRCC Soccer Program, Ada’s Corner Store, and many more. Many students demonstrated particularly advanced conceptualization for this project, one of whom created a cornucopia with the Mianus River running through it. The theme of this monument represented the “abundance” in Riverside and the river was symbolic of the flowing of this positive abundance within the community.
Parents, teachers and students were amazed and delighted with the outcome of this project. Students created monuments within specified guidelines that were both moving and thoughtful. “As a result of this project,” states Riverside School Staff Development Coach COLLEEN ALFANO, “these children will never forget the meaning of culture. They really internalized and extended what they learned about culture in class. They have made their ideas visible to others using their own creativity.”
Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a program being incorporated into RIVERSIDE SCHOOL as a part of the School Improvement Team goal. Project-based learning is a model for classroom activity that shifts away from the classroom practices of short teacher-centered lessons and instead emphasizes learning activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary, student-centered, and integrated with real world issues and practices. One immediate benefit of practicing PBL is the unique way that it can motivate students by engaging them in their own learning. PBL provides opportunities for students to pursue their own interests and questions and make decisions about how they will find answers and solve problems within the parameters of the school curriculum. The program helps make learning relevant and useful to students by establishing connections to life outside the classroom, addressing real world concerns, and developing real world skills. It also provides many unique opportunities for teachers to build relationships with students. Teachers may fill the varied roles of coach, facilitator, and co-learner. Finished products, plans, drafts, and prototypes all make excellent “conversation pieces” around which teachers and students can discuss the learning that is taking place.
RIVERSIDE constantly strives to extend the learning challenge to their students and to avoid complacency. “Testing is one measure of learning,” states Riverside Principal JOHN GRASSO, “but we also want to make learning relevant and visible and to teach our children to think for themselves. Thinking routines support the development of students as self-directed learners and learning for understanding.”
Staff members have developed two after-school Professional Learning Programs (PLP) for the RIVERSIDE SCHOOL teachers recently. One was facilitated by 4th Grade Teacher and Math Learning Facilitator HELEN GILES who introduced Project-Based Learning in the spring of 2006. The other program was presented by the RIVERSIDE SCHOOL PROJECT ZERO TEAM: ALP Teacher AMY MCCRACKEN, 3rd Grade Teacher TRESSA TORRE, 4th Grade Teacher DENICE CRETTOL, 5th Grade Teacher MARY ANSTEY, and Staff Development Coach COLLEEN ALFANO. This program integrated PROJECT ZERO with the concepts and practices of Project-Based Learning. PROJECT ZERO is a research group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education which has investigated the development of learning processes in children, adults, and organizations since 1967. Project Zero was founded by the philosopher Nelson Goodman to study and improve education in the arts. Goodman believed that arts learning should be studied as a serious cognitive activity, but that “zero” had been firmly established about the field; hence, the project was given its name. Today, Project Zero is building on this research to help create communities of reflective, independent learners; to enhance deep understanding within disciplines; and to promote critical and creative thinking. Project Zero’s mission is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels.
Riverside Principal GRASSO was first introduced to PROJECT ZERO six years ago at the “PROJECT ZERO CLASSROOM” an annual one-week symposium held at Harvard each year for educators from around the world. This year, the RIVERSIDE SCHOOL Project Zero team of five had the honor of attending the worldwide symposium at Harvard. “We walked away from this symposium with so much information and new understandings about how learning occurs and what we as educators can do to increase our students’ capacity for thinking,” says ALFANO.
RIVERSIDE SCHOOL is hoping to display the work of the “Monumental Riverside” project at the Perrot Memorial Library or another venue in the near future so that the community may view the projects.