When you have a problem, whom do you look to for advice? Most of us would look to someone with years of education and experience in that subject. You wouldn’t look to a middle school student to solve a problem of quantum physics – or would you?
You would if you were a proponent of the problem-based or project-based learning model (we will call it the PBL from here on). Companies, agencies, and organizations are looking for out of the box solutions to real-world challenges, and they’re looking to young people who don’t have the life experience to know that something won’t work before they try it.
The model was pioneered by the medical profession when graduate students lamented that much of the education they received in medical school had little relation to real-world scenarios. Today, PBL is used to work out solutions to social issues, health problems, environmental concerns, economics, and other challenges.
The model uses seven steps; clarifying terms, defining the problem, brainstorming, structuring and hypothesis, learning objectives, independent study and synthesis.
I like the way Wikipedia breaks it down, “In short, it is identifying what they already know, what they need to know, and how and where to access new information that may lead to the resolution of the problem.”
PBL is a complete shift from the traditional classroom model. Both teachers and students are challenged to teach and learn in new ways. For the teacher, it is a change from disseminating information to facilitating the discovery process. There is no right or wrong way, provided the students work within the framework of the model. For the students, who most often work in small groups, they must be responsible for discovering open-ended solutions, rather than achieving a definitive answer.
For the past two years, The Library has partnered with Sandpoint Middle School on a PBL project called Zero Robotics. It is a national coding competition organized by NASA (and a handful of other genius organizations) that enlists students to come up with solutions to problems of universal scope. Our teams, led by Teen Librarian, Morgan Gariepy and teacher, Dinah Gaddie, placed second in the state both times.
Last week some of our own library staff volunteered to be judges in the local Future City competition, a national PBL challenge that addresses real-world sustainability issues.
Library staffers, Emily Hitchcock and Vanessa Thiele are currently in the midst of another PBL partnership with Sandpoint Middle School called FabSlam, a 3D design and printing challenge to develop a product that fits a particular theme. You can join the FabSlam conversation on social media using the hashtags #7BLibrary and #FabSLAM2017.
The future belongs to young people, so it makes sense that they should be the ones to get a head start on resolving the challenges they will be faced with as adults. Next time you need expert help with a complex problem, you might consider looking for a middle school student.
• Friday, Jan. 12 — Teen Writers Club. 3:30 p.m. at the Sandpoint Branch Library, 1407 Cedar. Young writers of all writing platforms are invited to drop in for collaboration, writing prompt activities, and refreshments. For more info, contact Morgan at 263-6930 ext. 1245 or email@example.com.
• Saturday, Jan. 13 — American Heritage Wildlife Series. 2 p.m. at the Clark Fork Branch Library, 601 Main. January’s program: “Nocturnal Native Sounds – Find Out Who Lives in the Dark.” For more information, call 266-1321.
• Monday, Jan. 15 — Teen Center Game. 3:30 p.m. at the Sandpoint Teen Center, 104 S. Division. Teen Librarian, Morgan Gariepy hosts collaborative gaming for teens. For more information call Morgan at 263-6930 ext. 1245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Tuesday, Jan. 16 — Mother Goose. 10:15 a.m.. The Library’s Story Times will be at Creations on the Cedar St. Bridge for a while due to the construction project. Stories and singing for babies and toddlers 0-3 yrs and caregivers. Info: email@example.com.
• Tuesday, Jan. 16 — Preschool Story Time. 11 a.m. at Creations. Stories and crafts for kids ages 2-5 yrs. The Library’s Story Times will be at Creations on the Cedar St. Bridge for a while due to the construction project. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Tuesday, Jan. 16 — Robotics with Lego Mindstorm is canceled. For information, call the Clark Fork Branch Library, 266-1321.
• Wednesday, Jan. 17 — Clark Fork Stories & More. 10:30 a.m.. Kids and their caregivers enjoy story time, songs, snacks, and crafts at the Clark Fork Branch.
• Wednesday, Jan. 17 — Make It at the Library. 2 PM. Kids make a variety of age appropriate projects at the Clark Fork Branch.
• Thursday, Jan. 18 — Clark Fork Crafternoon. 3 p.m. at the Clark Fork Branch Library, 601 Main. Free family fun with a craft to take home. Call 266-1321 for more information.
• Winter Reading Program — It’s time for The Library’s Winter Reading Program, a reading challenge for kids. Pick up a reading bingo log and track your reading and read-to-me hours to qualify for prizes. For more information, call Suzanne Davis, 263-6930 ext. 1211 or email@example.com.
• StoryWalk — A partnership of The Library, Kaniksu Land Trust, city of Dover, and city of Ponderay. Pages from a children’s book are posted along a trail for a fun, family experience. At Dover City Park, read “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” by Richard Smith and Felix Bernard. At McNearney Park in Ponderay (behind Panhandle Animal Shelter), enjoy “Winter is the Warmest Season,” by Lauren Stringer. For more information, visit www.ebonnerlibrary.org or call Suzanne Davis, Children’s Services Librarian, 263-6930, ext. 1211, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read, connect, and get outside at a StoryWalk.