Project Based Learning

Project Update: The Wheaton High School Innovation Lab

The Innovation Lab at Wheaton High School started spinning its gears this summer (pun intended) with the start of two projects. The program pairs rising juniors and seniors at Wheaton High School with Dan Hoffman, Chief Innovation Officer of Montgomery County, and Senior Innovation Fellows specializing in the Food Truck Regulation and Market Research and yAPPer projects. The Innovation Lab currently in Wheaton High School is a partnership between MCPS and Montgomery County Government to pilot an Innovation and Leadership class this upcoming fall.

What were trying to do: pilot project-based learning as a means of teaching students, while giving students the professional and organizational skills needed to be successful in a professional environment. The pilot course offered in the fall at Wheaton High School will meld PMI (Project Management Institute) curriculum with project-based learning. At the end of the course, students will be eligible to take the exam needed to receive a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). Within the course, students will apply the skills acquired within the PMI/PMP curriculum to projects with real-world impact. Students working on the Food Truck Regulation project will develop a firmer understanding of the legislative process within Montgomery County. They will also be given the chance to interact with government officials within the County Government. Meanwhile, students working on the yAPPer project will be given experience in data collection and marketing strategy. Students also reap intangible benefits of the course, such as the development of interpersonal and leadership skills, through their experience with the course. They will learn to be teammates, professionals, and also project managers.

What the pilot of this class means for education: the project-based learning class at Wheaton begins to redefine the definition of a “real-world”education. Whereas so many students are pigeon-holed into taking classes that appear “rigorous”to appear “competitive”for the college-application process, the project-based learning class at Wheaton encourages students to take classes that are most engaging and meaningful to them. The class changes the meaning of “competitive,”by giving students an academic and professional edge over their peers. The project-based learning class taught at Wheaton High School will not only teach students fundamental management concepts, but also give them the “softer”skills that students need to be successful adults. The class embraces the leadership and professional skills that students can bring to the classroom; it prioritizes engagement and real-world action over multiple-choice questions and hypothesized problem sets. Furthermore, the students will be mentored by leaders throughout Montgomery County, who will serve as weekly guest speakers in the class. Within the class, the students will acquire the connections, professional skills, and personal skills to have a firmer grasp on success after graduation. They will redefine their competition.