Northwest Passage expands project-based learning model

Northwest Passage High School students participate in an ongoing aquaponics project at the school. Students now have the opportunity to work on passion projects all day long with the school’s expanded advisory and project-based learning model. Photo submitted

The new school year brought changes to the academic program at Northwest Passage High School in Coon Rapids. The school expanded its advisory and project-based learning model to the entire school day.

In the past, all students spent the mornings working on projects in advisory and then participated in classes in the afternoons. Now students will be offered even more voice and choice in their learning because they will have increased flexibility to explore their passions in an all-day PBL model.

The staff at NWPHS are confident that expanded time during the day for PBL will lead to more student ownership and will give students more freedom to explore their passions.

An example of a student who has used PBL at NWPHS to learn more about her interests is Maddy Rodorigo, who graduated from NWPHS last spring. Rodorigo found a unique way to earn U.S. History credit by creating four dioramas of Revolutionary War events using taxidermy mice. The dioramas included real mice, which the school helped her to purchase. She spent several weeks perfecting the dioramas both during and outside of school hours.

Another way that all-day PBL will help the school to fulfill its mission is by offering more flexibility for field-based learning experiences.

Peter Wieczorek, the school’s director and a science teacher, plans to offer his wolf studies class in partnership with the Wildlife Science Center over the course of the school year. Students will visit the Wildlife Science Center on a monthly basis for hands-on learning and research. Previously, wolf studies was condensed into a six-week afternoon class.

Under the new system, teachers will offer content-based seminars throughout the school year based on student interest. Some of these seminars may be based on expeditions, which are overnight trips offered at no cost to students. This school year’s expeditions include locations such as YMCA Camp Icaghowan in Wisconsin; Jay Cooke State Park; the Black Hills; Chicago; Louisiana; Canyonlands National Park in Utah; Washington, D.C.; and Guatemala.

Northwest Passage High School is pleased to offer these opportunities to all area students as a tuition-free public high school. The school values small class sizes and project-based learning in order to give students a more individualized educational experience. The school does not use a traditional A-F grade structure, but instead assesses students based on 21st century skills necessary for success in today’s society and workplace.


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