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, communication and project management skills.

In the nine years we have worked with students under the Meliora banner, we have had State finishers for the National History Day competition four of those years, and have also had four student projects advance to the National competition. We have also had students recognized multiple times at the Chicago Metro level with special awards and cash prizes. The course description for the 2019-2020 offering Breaking Barriers in Ancient History is found here.

This is the fourth year we are offering a Literature and Storytelling course. Students often enter the course lacking confidence in their writing skills and end the year having completed stories of 30-50 pages in length.We use a writers workshop approach, helping students find their own voice, including using alternative forms of storytelling, such as graphic and video formats. The 2019-2020 course Monsters, Muses & Muspellheim explores world mythologies. The course description is found here.

This year, we are offering both a junior and senior level for each of our courses. Students ages 12-14 will enter the junior course, and those aged 14-18 will enter the senior level. 14-year-old students may enroll in either level.

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 (teacher) assessment is also incorporated into the process and students receive periodic formative feedback on their progress. PBL is also iterative in nature, meaning students make numerous revisions and improvements to their product before calling it “done.”

Reflection is also a part of the process, as students develop deeper metacognition. They reflect on their own learning and process, the whole 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 public 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.

2 Comments

  1. I would like more information about this. meeting days and times, where you meet, worldview, cost and anything else you thing would be beneficial. this sounds like a great program, but i am not familiar with it.

    1. Hi Trudi!

      Thanks for reaching out. In answer to your questions:
      1. We meet on Mondays (it used to be Thursday, but I changed that this year).
      2. We have been meeting at the Nichols branch of the Naperville Public Library for several years, and will continue to do so unless I can find another cheap/free place to use.
      3. I “impose” no particular worldview. While I am myself Christian, that is not a requirement of being a Meliora student. All worldviews are welcome. Likewise, the materials we use are secular, usually consisting of trade publications, and readily-accessible primary and secondary source documents.
      4. I do not charge for the classes. Students are responsible for the costs of materials (usually minimal, available at the library, online, etc.). Students who participate in the National History Day competition will also need to pay the $50 fee which covers the costs for all competitions through the state level. Also, students are responsible for any costs for field trips.
      5. As you have undoubtedly discovered reading through this website, Meliora uses a very student-centered approach, which helps pique the students’ interest because they have “control” over a lot of the topics they dive into. A natural bi-product of this approach is that there is less structure than in a textbook-assignment-quiz/test approach. Most students love the freedom of taking charge (with guidance/planning) of their own learning. Some, however, take time to adjust to PBL methodology.

      Feel free to ask any other questions that come to mind. I recommend you plan to attend our Student Showcase & Open House the evening of May 14. Your whole family is welcome, and you’ll be able to check out work the students have done and talk to them. I will also have more detailed information on next year’s courses. You can RSVP here.

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