I learned that PBL units all have a "driving question" that guides the unit, and the driving question for this PBL unit is: How can we make the WHS community better?
This is actually very similar to an old NeSA writing prompt we used to use to teach persuasive writing back in the (dreaded) days of NeSA, but the Aristotelian flaw in the NeSA prompt was that it was a dead-end, go-nowhere-beyond-the-teacher's-desk kind of prompt. Every student has multiple opinions about how we could make school better, but if the only person hearing that message is the teacher, and there's no built-in opportunity to actually do anything about it, then what's the point?
Therein lies the beauty of PBL. I was graciously awarded at $2000 FFE grant and the blessing of administration to allow students who present the best answer to the guiding question to use the grant money to actually enact their project idea.
Topics range from adding new classes, changing schedules, modifying A&P, getting supplies and equipment for various programs, beautifying the campus, composting, and even a community garden. Students will present these projects to a panel of teachers, administrators, FFE Board members, and representatives from the Board of Education. During class time, I am teaching them the basics of persuasive writing and speaking skills, but a bulk of the time is wide open for students to collaborate, meet with teachers, coaches, and administrators, call businesses for quotes, and ask questions and get guidance as they need.
In the few short days we've worked on this unit, I can already tell the level of student buy-in is much deeper than it has ever been before. Each student is getting a fair and equal shot at positively impacting our community, getting the time and resources to make it happen, and the persuasive skills to convince the panel to green-light their project.
I look forward to seeing how this unit shakes out and to see how our students shape our community into a better version of itself. With any luck, this is a PBL Unit we will be able to do every year.