We are a project-based learning school.
Our students spend nearly four hours a day working on projects.
Project work is interdisciplinary. One trimester a student might do a project on clean energy and another on the school-to-prison pipeline. The next, they could write a play and work on the food justice.
Over the course of the year, projects cover all major subject areas, and also help students build five foundational skills: reflection, improvement with feedback, collaboration, problem solving, and project management.
Here’s a sample of projects we’ve completed recently.
To kick off the year, each of our 11th 12th grade advisories designs and runs their own escape room. Students experience professional escape rooms (some for the first time), meet with designers, and analyze how the rooms are planned and operated. They learn about different types of puzzles and how to link them. And they develop scenarios and storylines in which to situate the puzzles they create. Once they have their design, they construct everything they need to stage the room: puzzles, props, videos – whatever brings the experience to life for participants. The project culminates in a school fundraiser, attended by nearly 200 guests, where students run five classroom-based, hour long escape rooms.
The Science of Baking
Last year, all cafeterias in the School District of Philadelphia began serving Rebel Crumbles, a breakfast cake developed by students from Rebel Ventures, an organization that works with Philadelphia youth to impact the supply of healthy food by developing food products that are sold to schools. However, the Rebels were facing two problems with their Rebel Crumbles: (1) How can they reduce “density” in the texture? (2) How can they reduce sugar content and maintain deliciousness? For this project, Workshop students helped the Rebels address these problems with their Rebel Crumbles while still making a product that is appealing to Philadelphia students.
The rapid growth in incarceration in the United States is known as mass incarceration. This increase has been driven more by changes in policy than by changes in crime rates themselves. Throughout the course of this project, we examine the growth of incarceration in the United States and the effects of the growth in incarceration. We then think about what has contributed to the increasing levels of incarceration and what practical steps we can take to address the problem of mass incarceration. The project culminates in a city-wide Mass Incarceration Symposium.
One of the first projects our new 9th grade students do is the bridge project.
Each student pairs up with someone from a different advisory and uses up to 100 popsicle sticks and 2 sticks of balsa wood to build a bridge.
On the way, they take a walking tour to visit different bridges across the Schuykill and draw a life-size sketch showing their bridge from the front, side, and top.
At the end, every bridge is tested to see how much weight it can hold before breaking. Over the past three years, the winning bridges have consistently held about 175 lbs.
To step it up a notch from popsicle stick bridges in 9th grade, this year we’re challenging 10th grade students to build and sail a cardboard boat!
Working in teams of 3-4, students started out by taking a field trip to the Independence Seaport Museum, learning basic boat vocabulary, and testing out miniature boats to figure out what shape makes the best boat. They designed scale models of their boats in TinkerCAD and cut them out on the laser cutter. Finally, after a deeper look at buoyancy, they cut and assembled their full-size boat and set sail!
Each boat was required to hold at least one person and could only be made of cardboard, duct tape, and paint. Boats were judged on how fast they could paddle across a swimming pool and how well-built and decorated they were. Many thanks to the staff and patrons at the West Philadelphia YMCA for hosting our boat trials!
The School District of Philadelphia, an equal opportunity employer, will not discriminate in employment or education programs or activities, based on race, color, religion, age, national origin, ancestry, physical handicap, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, or limited English proficiency. This policy of non-discrimination extends to all other legally protected classifications. Publication of this policy in this document is in accordance with state and federal laws, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The Workshop School, 221 S. Hanson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19139, 215-400-7730