Buck Institute for Education Receives $2 Million in Grants to Scale High Quality Project Based Learning for Deeper Learning Impact

Project focuses on students furthest from opportunity, with implementation in the Manchester School District in New Hampshire and the Pearl City-Waipahu Complex Area in Hawai’i, representing 29,284 students

Novato, California (April 3, 2018) - The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) has been awarded $2 million in grants to support Scaling High Quality Project Based Learning for Deeper Learning (DL) Impact, a three-year research practice partnership to scale deeper learning (DL) practices in two school districts and conduct research to understand the impact of DL.

BIE received funding for this project from five philanthropic partners, including: $1 million from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and additional funds from the Bezos Family Foundation, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Barr Foundation, and New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

"The support provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and a handful of other foundations is a unique opportunity to learn what it takes to scale high quality Project Based Learning (PBL) in districts in New Hampshire and Hawai’i so that more students, particularly those furthest from opportunity, can benefit from deeper learning practices like PBL,” said Bob Lenz, Executive Director, Buck Institute for Education.

Research confirms that to be successful in today’s rapidly changing and complex world and solve the complex economic, environmental, and social problems of tomorrow, students need to develop a broader set of knowledge and skills beyond academics that are traditionally emphasized in public schools to include problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and self-management.[i] Research shows positive results for students who attend schools focused on deeper learning.

The goals of the partnership are twofold:

1)  Learn what it takes to scale high quality Project Based Learning to increase mastery of four DL competencies: master rigorous core content, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, and develop and maintain academic and learning mindsets.

2)  To generate and share relevant and actionable research that supports the codification and adoption of new knowledge about how to spread deeper learning practices.

The research practice partnership (RPP) includes the Buck Institute (practitioner support provider and project lead), Manchester School District and Pearl City-Waipahu Complex Area (district partners), New Hampshire and Hawai’i Departments of Education (PBL champions), Education Northwest (research partner), and the Clayton Christensen Institute (consulting partner).

BIE strategically selected the project’s district partners in New Hampshire and Hawai’i because of their demonstrated success with and commitment to PBL. The project focuses on students who are furthest from opportunity, with success defined by scaling high quality PBL for deeper learning impact to 80% of all students and at least 80% of students who are furthest from opportunity. Specifically, by January 2021, 80% of the 29,284 students in the two districts, including at least 80% of the students who are furthest from opportunity, will engage in two high quality projects per year. Both district partners defined “furthest from opportunity” as students who are eligible for free/reduced lunch, students who are eligible for special education, and students who speak a language other than English at home.

“This grant will provide authentic, experiential learning opportunities for students to collaborate, solve problems, richen their communication and master the academic content,” says Dr. Bolgen Vargas, Superintendent, Manchester School District. “Our students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge in numerous ways, allowing for deeper learning, student engagement, and ultimately an increase in academic achievement.”

Pearl City-Waipahu Complex Area Superintendent Clayton Kaninau added, "Project based learning is the instructional practice that allows students to acquire skills necessary for college and career readiness. It moves classroom instruction to incorporating collaboration, communication, and critical thinking with core content knowledge. Students are empowered and motivated to voice their interests and reflect on the learning process."

[i] Condliffe. B., Visher, M. G., Bangser, M. R, Drohojowska, S. & Saco, L. (2015). Project-Based Learning: A Literature Review. MDRC/Lucas Education Research.




About PBLWorks

At PBLWorks, we believe that all students—no matter where they live or what their background—should have access to quality Project Based Learning to deepen their learning and achieve success in college, career, and life. Our focus is to build the capacity of teachers to design and facilitate quality Project Based Learning and the capacity of school and system leaders to set the conditions for teachers to implement great projects with all students. For more information, visit www.pblworks.org.