Educator describes new method of engaging students
The Mount Pleasant Lions Club held their regular 12 p.m. meeting on last Thursday at the Mount Pleasant Country Club.
Guest speaker was Erika Ponce de Leon, fifth grade teacher at Harts Bluff ISD. Ponce de Leon has been with Harts Bluff ISD for the past six years.
Ponce de Leon uses a new concept in her classroom, “Project Based Learning,” she said. Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge by investigating and responding to an authentic problem.
Students are faced with a “Driving Question” for each situation, as well as a list of standards. A basic model project for Ponce de Leon’s class is as follows:
• Driving Question: How can we create a working model that represents our knowledge of the day and night cycle?
• Earth completely rotates on its axis every 24 hours, creating the day/night cycle
• Describe and compare the physical characteristics of the earth, sun and moon
“I can teach in small groups,” said Ponce de Leon. “I can teach one kid from each team and students can teach other students. With this concept, the teacher is available to walk around the classroom to make sure every student understands.”
Recently, students were challenged to find a way to raise money for Grace Case, a local charitable cause in Mount Pleasant.
“The kids came up with a proposal to present to the superintendent,” she said. “They decided to start a coffee bar to raise actual money for the project. So they have a budget. They shared their proposal with school administrators. The money raised in the actual coffee bar will purchase actual cases for Grace Case. It’s not just about sitting and memorization.
“The kids last year even came up with the idea for a ‘buddy bench’ for kids who are being bullied. If a child feels alone or bullied, they can go sit on the buddy bench and other kids will go check on that child and ask them if they want to play with them. It’s a little different. I love it — I don’t ever want to teach traditionally again.”
Ponce de Leon says she is now able to meet kids on their level. “When I talk to a room full of people at the same time, not everyone is listening. I can now meet these students where they are and push them to go higher. I have access to other schools’ materials who are using this program and they have access to ours, so we always have ideas.”
Ponce de Leon stated that her students are “doing great on traditional and state mandated testing.”
“Our kids in this program are kindergarten through eighth grade students. Our kids are transitioning very well. There is no group grade. Students are still graded on their individual work. Our kids need an outlet for their creativity. I want these kids to become experts,” she said.
The next Lions Club Board Meeting will be on Oct. 31 at Blalock Bar-B-Que, located at 2310 N. Jefferson #C. Due to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, there will be no meeting on Nov. 23, Dec. 14, Dec. 21 or Dec. 28.
The Annual Lions Club Christmas Party has been scheduled for Friday, Dec. 15 at the Mount Pleasant Country Club.