Meliora – Project-Based Learning in the Humanities

Have you heard of Meliora? It is a project-based learning (PBL) initiative that offers humanities courses for secondary (ages 12-18) students. PBL is a student- and interest-centered methodology that provides opportunities for students to investigate topics of their own choosing within a defined framework. Students develop not only content knowledge, but also critical thinking, analytical, technology, research, collaboration and communication skills.

In the seven years we have worked with students under the Meliora banner, we have had State finishers for the National History Day competition three of those years, and have also had three student projects advance to the National competition. Twice, we have had students recognized at the Chicago Metro level with special awards and cash prizes. The course description for the 2017-2018 offering US History Through the Lens of Race Relations is found here.

Last year, we conducted our first Literature and Storytelling course. The students, many of whom lacked confidence in their writing skills when they entered the class completed stories of 30-50 pages in length by the end of the year. Students were given the option of developing their stories in numerous formats, such as video, spoken-word poetry, drama, animation, etc. In 2017-2018, we will offer Dystopian Worlds and Transmedia Storytelling. The course description is found here.

Meliora students also have a strong voice in how they present their evidence of learning. Formats available to them include (and are not limited to) website, documentary, spoken-word poetry, comic book, timeline, dramatic production, and traditional written thesis or story.

PBL is a methodology that is effective for all learners, as it allows for a great diversity of methods and tools to be used in project development. Since it is a process-centered approach, students learn to plan their work and to assess their own progress. Peer and facilitator assessment is also incorporated into the process, therefore students receive periodic formative feedback on their progress. PBL is also an iterative process, meaning students are expected to carry out numerous revisions and improvements to their product.

Reflection is also a part of the process. Students reflect on their own learning and process, the class reflects on the project and the facilitator’s effectiveness, and the facilitator reflects on the project framework and implementation and ways they could be improved.

Finally, students present their work to a public audience. This includes a brick-and-mortar showcase, and may also include the use of social media and other virtual forms of exposition. Students’ summative assessment consists of a combination of the product they create and their presentation, during which they further substantiate their depth of understanding.

We are very proud of the effort, energy and cognition our students put into developing “beautiful work,” and wonder if you have a teenage student(s) who is interested in joining us in the fall? Please contact us at meliora09@gmail.com for further information.

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