Meet Ms. Mathai (Jennifer Mathai Aldrete), a science teacher at Solar Preparatory School for Girls in Dallas, Texas, who participated in PBL World last summer. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Jennifer about her highlights from PBL World, an experience that has inspired a collaborative approach to her teaching and her determination to return to PBL World in the near future.
What inspired you to attend PBL World?
I’ve always been interested in learning more about Project Based Learning (PBL), and when I shared this with my principal, Olivia Santos, she suggested that I attend PBL World. I initially envisioned using this professional development experience to enhance our school's Science Fair. However, during my time at PBL World, I discovered so many other possibilities, especially opportunities to collaborate on projects with my team.
Going a little back in time to my Master's program, I took part in the Donovan Urban Teaching Scholars Program, where we explored research that underscored the limitations of standardized testing and traditional teaching methods. Recognizing the need for a more holistic and collaborative approach to learning, PBL naturally emerged as an intriguing and holistic approach to learning! So, even before I stepped into a classroom, I was already drawn to the possibilities that PBL offered.
Can you describe how your teaching practice and students' learning experiences were changed by PBL World?
This experience opened my eyes to the possibilities of collaboration in my class through PBL. In the past, I would often say to myself, "Oh my gosh," and shy away from creating collaborative opportunities for my students in science, feeling overwhelmed by considering all these little things while ensuring everything ran smoothly.
As a result of the PBL 101 workshop experience, I’ve integrated more opportunities for collaboration, drawing from my firsthand experience as a participant. Now, being able to witness my students actively participating in giving and receiving feedback has been so impressive, surpassing all my initial expectations. I know that this is the result of them having lived collaborative experiences through PBL, and it's truly rewarding to see their elevated level of engagement and maturity.
Tell us About a memorable aspect of your PBL World experience.
A memorable aspect of my PBL World experience was attending with my team and connecting with educators from various states and countries. It was eye opening to learn about education systems worldwide and realize the global reach of PBL. Meeting educators from regions outside of my home state, Texas, offered insights and exchanges that were truly memorable.
An added bonus for me was enjoying the summertime weather in California, adding an extra layer of delight to the entire experience, and the gathering at the Culinary Institute of America was especially memorable!
For educators considering attending PBL World for the first time, what tip would you give them?
In my PBL 101 workshop, the facilitator often prompted and encouraged us to share our thoughts and perspectives. This level of engagement is something I rarely encounter in other professional development settings.
My tip: Share your thoughts and challenge yourself to think deeper! Make the most of the moments that are set aside for reflection. Be prepared to participate!
Anything else you’d like to share?
I am going to figure out a way to come back to PBL World! It was phenomenal—a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Unlike any conference or professional development I've attended before, I not only came away with a tangible product but also acquired skills that I have been able to share with my students and incorporate into my classes!
PBL World 2024: Join us at American Canyon High School in Napa Valley from June 24-27, 2024, to begin or continue your PBL journey with four days of transformative professional development. Ignite joy through PBL - register now for PBL World 2024! For more information, visit https://www.pblworks.org/pbl-world.
✉️ If you attended PBL World and it has impacted your teaching in transformative ways, reach out to Natalie at [email protected]. Your experience might be someone else's valuable inspiration. Join us in sharing the transformative power of PBL on teaching and learning—we can't wait to hear about your PBL journey!