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Pearl Rhodes introduces ‘project-based’ learning

New teaching model uses long-term projects based on real-world problems

  • Pearl Rhodes Elementary School in Leyden is also exploring strategies for cutting the school’s total operation costs, like eventually adding solar panels to the building. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

LEYDEN — Hoping to draw more students from Leyden and other towns, Pearl Rhodes Elementary School will be following a new “project-based” educational model this coming school year.

“This is either a really good way for us to show our value to the community and to the district and hopefully build our enrollment, or it’s going to be a good way to go out with a bang,” said Abbi Pratt, a Leyden resident and Education Council member.

This new teaching model uses long-term projects based on real-world problems to teach typical school subjects, said Patty Solomon, who teaches third- and fourth-grade at Pearl Rhodes, and serves on the Leyden Education Council. She said the projects often are designed to engage the students with their surrounding community and environment.

“In case this does end up being the last year for Pearl Rhodes,” Solomon said, “I’m going to put together some kind of project that ties into the Leyden Community and the history of Leyden.”

The Education Council’s members are Leyden residents and Pearl Rhodes faculty. The group came together in March, after the School Committee held a public hearing on its 2018-2019 budget, to explore options for preserving Pearl Rhodes.

“There was a recognition that we aren’t sustainable as we are now,” Pratt said.

The “project-based” approach to learning was chosen because the teachers liked it and felt that it could be implemented relatively quickly, Solomon said.

For the long term, Pratt said, the council is still considering more drastic changes to Pearl Rhodes, like changing it into an agricultural school. The council is also exploring strategies for cutting the school’s total operation costs, like eventually adding solar panels to the building.

The council was also responsible for planning and securing funding for before- and after-school programs at Pearl Rhodes. In the council’s community meetings in March, the lack of before- and after-school programs were cited by several residents as a reason why Pearl Rhodes is inconvenient for some parents in Leyden, Solomon said. At Leyden’s Annual Town Meeting in May, residents voted for the town to give $7,500 to Pearl Rhodes to help start before- and after- school programs, which are designed to be self-sufficient after they start.

“That was the proof that Leyden wants us,” Solomon said. “It was right in the middle of the budget crisis when there was a lot of talk about closing Pearl Rhodes. … It was a vote of confidence and pure optimism and hope.”