Meliora – Project-Based Learning in the Humanities

Meliora is a project-based learning (PBL) practice 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 structured framework. Students develop not only content knowledge, but also critical thinking, analytical, technology, research, collaboration, creativity, communication and project management skills.

Social Studies

We have conducted social studies courses under the Meliora banner since 2011. We have had State finishers for the National History Day competition seven different years, and have also had four student projects advance to the National competition. Students have been recognized a number of times at the Chicago Metro level with special awards and cash prizes. The course description for the upcoming US History course “How has mass media shaped the social, cultural and political frontiers of America?” is found here.

Literature and Storytelling

Students often enter Meliora’s literature and storytelling courses lacking confidence in both their literary analysis and writing skills and end the year leading Socratic literary discussions and producing stories of 20-50 pages in length. We use variations of peer-led literature circles to discuss our reading. We use a writers workshop approach to develop storytelling skills and help students find their own voice. Students are invited to use alternative forms of storytelling, such as graphic novels, spoken word poetry, and video formats. The 2022-2023 course is “Daughter of Fog — explorations of fantasy storytelling” and the description is found here.

Western Philosophy

Meliora is excited to launch a survey course in Western philosophy for the 2022-2023 school year. We will explore and discuss the thinking of major Western philosophers and will develop projects that apply their reasoning to real-world problems. The course description for “What does Sophie know about philosophy?” is found here. Please note that this course is open to students at least 14 years old.

General Overview and Methodology

Meliora courses are conducted in a multi-aged classroom comprised of students between the ages of 12 and 18. We use a process-based ecosystem called project-based learning (PBL) to guide students through their learning. It is effective for all learners, as it allows for a great diversity of methods and tools to be used throughout the process. As students advance through the process, they learn to plan and manage their work and to assess their own progress. Peers and the facilitator (teacher) also provide periodic  feedback on students’ progress using structured protocols to identify both strengths and areas for improvement in the work. Therefore, the process incorporates the time and expectation that students will create multiple iterations of prototypes/drafts of their work, in order to deepen their understanding and maximize the quality of the artifact.

As part of the PBL process, Meliora students are given a lot of choice and a strong voice in the artifacts they create. Formats available to them include (and are not limited to) website, documentary, spoken-word poetry, comic book, timeline, dramatic production, podcast, and traditional written thesis or story.

Reflection is also integral to the process, helping 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 (if feasible), and may also include the use of social media and other virtual forms of exposition. Final assessments consist of an evaluation of both the artifact they create and their presentation and interaction with the audience.

We are very proud of the effort, energy and cognition our students put into developing “beautiful work,” and wonder if you have a tween/teen student(s) who is interested in joining us in the fall? Please refer to our FAQ page for more information, and contact Charlene at with any additional questions.

1 Comment

  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.

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