Tania Safar, Head Teacher and VET Coordinator from Merrylands High School (MHS), provides a progress report on her TAS PBL project that has students question how we value and respect the food that we eat.
From Paddock to Plate
The delivery of this TAS project based learning unit was structured around the driving question, “How do we value and respect the food that we eat?” This unit has taken a few different paths. Initially I aimed to build empathy in my students and we watched various clips on refugees and famine. We watched the story of Deng, a refugee who is now a lawyer, and we then built our popplets/mind maps around what the driving question entails with an underlying focus on empathy.
We worked through the agriculture specific teaching moments regarding what the ‘paddock to plate’ concept means, and researched what fruit and vegetables grow and when.
The unit has led to students driving their own learning. The students have been in control from the beginning with their learning and the focus of their studies. They connected with community groups, liaised with various school personnel, worked on their concepts before proposing their ideas and creating their gardens.
Challenges and enablers in implementing the project based learning program
Some of the challenges have been TIME! I don’t ever have enough time with this class. I haven’t connected with other faculty areas as yet, as the timetable is extremely restrictive. However, I have created working relationships with other staff in various faculty areas that the students can go to should they need further specialty support.
It has also been a challenge to be in 6 different areas at one time, each group is creating a different space and depending on where it is, it can be very difficult to co-ordinate. In addition, some companies have taken a long time to get back to the students, which has affected some groups morale, however these issues are now sorted.
The Community Liaison officer has been a HUGE help. She supported various groups in their attempts to connect with community groups, and has also met with the students to work on letters etc. Being in the TAS faculty, has also meant that I have access to a range of tools and materials which supports students practical work. My team has been amazing, supporting various students when I am not available.
Top PBL tips
Have a clear vision of what you want your students to achieve, and ensure your team/colleagues are aware of what you are working on. The students are running a million miles ahead with this unit. I have to stop them at various times and slow them down.
We have emphasised the portfolio process, however have had to put a page limit as some groups were writing Uni thesis’.
The students are constantly making comments that they don’t want to leave this class and are always coming to see me at break times!
By Tania Safar. Tania Safar is Head Teacher TAS and VET Coordinator at Merrylands High School.