Here at Lift for Life Academy, we don’t only care for our kids as students, but as a whole person, going beyond our educational calling to truly educate, empower, and uplift the next generation of students in St. Louis. Over the past few years, we have begun to implement one of the newer educational techniques: Project-Based Learning. Project based learning is the implementation of methods that give our students more real-life perspective in their education. By educating through real-world problems and assigning more long-term projects surrounding these issues, students are able to have a more complex look at the issue at hand while giving them a more dynamic and active role in their own education.

Rodney Malone, high school civics teacher, is leading the charge by helping to teach other faculty members the tools and benefits of this way of teaching our students. “It’s useful because student interests meet curriculum content and put kids in a position to develop discovery habits, habits that teach them how to learn independently rather than over-reliance on teachers or their environment,” Malone said. Malone stated that project-based learning pushes engagement toward student interests rather than a more arbitrary and stale room atmosphere. As we strive to prepare our students for the future, these methods of problem based instruction and project based learning will do just that. Malone stated, “Of course, all universities and employers value self-reliant thinkers that can problem solve and responsibly complete complicated tasks.  If we are able to use problem-based instruction and project-based learning properly, we will create more students like that.”

One of our favorite projects we’ve seen so far this year was also one that is presently relevant to the city of St. Louis. English teacher Grace Evans wanted to allow her students to explore the recently decided Jason Stockley trial and the protests afterwards. “A couple of weeks ago, my students started asking me about the Jason Stockley trial. I quickly discovered that they had way better questions than I had answers, and ours current unit is all about injustices in the community,” Evans said. She split the class into five groups to examine five different aspects of the case: Anthony Lamar Smith, Jason Stockley, the evidence, the rights of everyone involved, and what was going on with the verdict. Through articles, statistics, analyses, and other artistic representations, the class presented their findings together on posters throughout the campus to teach peers and faculty, too, before the verdict came out. She also mentioned that it was something her students really cared about and were eager to learn about. “They almost unanimously came to the conclusion that there was more than enought evidence to warrant a guilty conviction, but that there probably wouldn’t be one. So, when the verdict was finally announced, I think they were prepared for it,” Evans said. She did say that she thought it was a great way of letting them express how they were feeling in a more constructive manner. “No one was unclear or uncertain of exactly what was happening. As the saying goes, knowledge is power,” Evans said.