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Project-Based Learning: Unleashing the Thunder with Garth Brooks and the Power of Adult Connections

We all know the first few notes, the cords strum, and we all are ready to belt out our version of Friends in Low Places. Garth Brooks brings a lot of inspiration to us in how we can use Adult Connections in classrooms to improve student learning. Today we’re ready to dive into the exciting world of education and the magic of Project-Based Learning (PBL). Last year I was in a staff lounge and every teacher was on their laptop waiting in the queue to get Garth Brooks tickets. The prior concert was canceled due to COVID, but I remember the excitement, the anxiety on if the staff was able to get their tickets. I myself am a big Garth Brooks fan, not a Chris Gains fan,  and as you remember in my George Strait blog and ChatGPT I do love analogies!

Today, we’re not just gonna “stand outside the fire”, we’re gonna light it up with the wisdom of Garth Brooks songs and explore how adult connections play a vital role in the learning journey of students and how we leverage them at New Technology High School.

Friends in Low Places: The Power of Adult Connections in Project Based Learning

Adults Providing Feedback

In the education rodeo, students sometimes feel like they’re walking a tightrope. But worry not, dear readers, because having friends (or teachers) in low places can be a game-changer. Students thrive when they form meaningful connections with adults who believe in them, support them, and provide a shoulder to lean on. Just like Garth’s friends in low places, these connections become the anchors that keep students grounded, empowered, and ready to conquer the challenges that come their way.

Learners are asking for a “why” in their learning. As educational professionals, we should be experts at scaffolding, differentiation and instruction. We can’t always be an environmentalist, an economist or a mathematician. Seek out those professions and invite them into the learning. Ask, how they give feedback, gain feedback and share their work with others, and then replicate that task in your class.

The River: Guiding Students through Their PBL Learning Journey

Every student’s learning journey is a lot like flowing with the river’s current. It’s about embracing the twists and turns, learning from the bends, and finding the courage to keep going. In Project-Based Learning, students are encouraged to explore, investigate, and solve real-world problems. Just like “The River,” teachers serve as navigators, guiding their students along the way, helping them discover their passions, and supporting them as they learn to ride the rapids of knowledge.

By guiding them along the river, we know that it is “ever changing as it flows.” Sometimes the river is more like a float trip and others like a white water rafting trip. Choosing the right scaffold, instructional strategy at the right stage will help students through river, and we will “sail our vessel, until that river runs dry.”

Learning to Live Again: Encouraging Risk-Taking and Resilience

Garth’s heartfelt ballad, “Learning to Live Again,” strikes a chord with the spirit of Project-Based Learning. This educational approach isn’t just about acing tests; it’s about learning to live and thrive in the real world. PBL encourages students to step out of their comfort zones, take risks, and embrace failure as a stepping stone to success. And who better to inspire resilience than Garth himself? His journey to fame wasn’t always smooth, but he bounced back stronger, just like students do when they embrace the challenges of PBL.

We have all “burned our hands” in this work and “smiled our best smile.” Building a culture of learning, reflection is more important than a culture of “projects.” Keep the focus on academic rigor and how learners can transfer their learning in authentic situations and know that “you are doing just fine.”

Adult Connection Lesson

Standing Outside the Fire: PBL Empowers Students to Shine

In Project-Based Learning, students are no longer standing outside the fire; they’re in the heart of it, igniting their passion for learning. PBL empowers students to take the reins, explore their interests, and delve into projects that matter to them. Just like Garth sings about “standing outside the fire” to feel the heat, PBL helps students embrace the excitement of learning and push themselves beyond limits they didn’t know existed.

“But you got to be tough when consumed by desire” which is why we love being in education, our desire to inspire student learning developing our “ideal graduate.” Education is tough, hard work, “there is this love that is burning” and drives us all. Give students the voice, the space to shine and share their learning whether it be in a presentation, community service and or a defense of learning. Nothing is more satisfying when our students at school share their learning with others and in our community. 

The Dance: Embracing the Joy of Learning

Feedback Protocol

Life, just like learning, is a dance. It’s about taking chances, twirling in excitement, and sometimes, stepping on a few toes. PBL creates an environment where students can enjoy the dance of learning, celebrating the process and not just the end result. It encourages curiosity, creativity, and a love for exploration. After all, as Garth croons, “our lives are better left to chance; I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

Knowing that learning is hard, learning is the journey. Embrace your successes and know that “for a moment, all the world was right.” Then reflect and replicate the moment, for students as they need the moment and multiple successes and celebrations in their learning journey. 

We Shall Be Free: Using PBL to Foster Inclusivity and Collaboration

In Project-Based Learning, the classroom becomes a community of learners, coming together to make the world a better place. Garth Brooks’ anthem, “We Shall Be Free,” aligns perfectly with the PBL spirit of inclusivity and collaboration. Students from different backgrounds, with unique strengths and perspectives, work together to tackle real-world challenges. It’s about breaking down barriers, supporting one another, and believing in the power of unity.

In Napa, we get an assumption that our school is full of winery owners sons and daughters. As a school, we are a beautiful mix of our community and representation of farmworkers, agricultural specialists, hospitality industry and just your average high school kid. Every one of our student is embracing our culture of inclusivity and collaboration with not only their peers but with adults in our community.

'Til the Sun Comes up in Project Based Learning

So, there you have it. The electrifying synergy between Garth Brooks’ timeless songs and the essence of Project-Based Learning. Just like Garth’s music brings joy and inspiration, adult connections in education spark the fire of curiosity and ignite the passion for lifelong learning in students. So, whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or a student on this educational journey, remember to “unleash the thunder” with Project-Based Learning and let the power of adult connections light up the path to success. Until next time, keep on learning, and keep on singing along to the melody of education!

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