Hands-On, Project-Based Program Offers Opportunities, Inspiration

Project Exploration is both cutting edge and a 50-year tradition at the all-girls Purnell School. Each year, faculty members create new three-week, mini-semester classes for students that reflect the type of learning they’re encountering both inside and outside the classroom — from academic courses designed to be hands-on, meaningful, and individualized, to LifeSports, engaging girls in athletics programs that can inspire them for life.

This year’s offerings include a full-on theater production of “Emma! A Pop Musical,” based on the Jane Austen novel. Students taking the “Life, Culture, and Food” course will create their own Purnell-style pop-up restaurant after only a few weeks of Small Business 101 — including culinary arts, interior design, budgeting, and staffing. “Animal Ethics” participants are investigating arguments for and against animal rights while exploring several zoos and museums in New Jersey and Philadelphia. They’ll discuss their findings with young students at a nearby school.

International or domestic travel options — not designed to be “tourist” vacations, but art history, service, and scientific-based courses — will feature an ecological service project. Travelers will examine the Ecuadorean and Andean cultures while living with a host family in the village of Nanegal.

The program concludes with a Showcase, where students display their work and give presentations to the rest of the school and outside community.

“Project Exploration is the purest and most exciting example of learning at Purnell,” says Jessica Eckert, Assistant Head for Academic Affairs. “It truly reflects the fact that education is becoming experiential and project-based, enhancing the connections of coursework to a student’s life outside the classroom.”

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One thought on “Hands-On, Project-Based Program Offers Opportunities, Inspiration

  1. Project-based learning is the leading edge of progressive, 21st C. learning because it engages students deeply in learning and manifests the big shifts in education, from teacher-centered to student-centered, from knowing to doing, from the individual to the team, from subject-silos to cross-disciplinary integration, and the like. Good to see Purnell among the scores of other independent schools taking the lead in this arena. Pat Bassett (bassett@headsuped.com)

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