While traditional school breaks learning down in various disciplines, life is not so easily compartmentalized. Learning takes many forms and involves the integration of a variety of disciplines, using language skills to communicate, math to calculate, an artistic eye to design, and a scientific mind to hypothesize. Using a project-based learning approach, our students are required to apply these and many other skills to solve a problem, build a model, or work through a series of revisions on their way to finalizing an end product.
The Design Thinking model takes project-based learning a step further and views empathy as the center and motivation for design. Understanding the “client” in the design process allows for greater clarity and understanding when trying to solve a problem. Design Thinking incorporates the iterative process, embracing failure as a valuable step along the way to success. The ability to learn through failure, to iterate and persevere are essential skills for today’s student.
PBL in Middle School
St. Matthew’s offers students an opportunity to apply their learning in two integrated programs in the third trimester of the 7th and 8th Grade years.
7th grade students take part in the exciting, interdisciplinary program of STAR: Shakespeare, Theater, Arts and the Renaissance. Throughout this program, students closely read, perform, interpret, analyze, and explore a seminal Shakespeare play in English class. This work happens in tandem with the students’ Art and History classes, in which they learn important socio-historical context about the Renaissance. The unit culminates with a creative, student-driven project about either Shakespeare, Theater, the Arts, or the Renaissance. Students then showcase all of their hard work at the student-hosted San Mateo Renaissance Faire - held here on campus!
DEEP (Diving Education Enrichment Program) combines Math, Science, Technology, and Physical Education. Scuba diving is used as a theme to connect the academics and to, quite literally, provide an immersive experience. The students have scuba diving lessons in our on-campus pool and work in small groups to complete one of several research projects in either a scientific method or engineering track. Students design and create websites to document their work and publish their findings. Over the last decade, DEEP students have built underwater robots, created echo-location devices, and studied the aspects of ocean acidification and aquatic ecosystem resilience. DEEP alumni have published their research in scientific peer-reviewed journals, pursued careers and advanced degrees in science and engineering, and many have dedicated their lives to the protection of the ocean and earth’s natural resources.
Innovation & Design Thinking
Students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade attend innovation classes in one of our three maker spaces. K-4 students combine STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) exploration with imaginative play in LaunchPad (our Lower School Makerspace), utilizing tools and materials to encourage creativity, engineering and design thinking. Circuitry, basic coding, and robotics are explored. Middle School students use one of our two Project & Idea Realization Lab (PIRL) spaces to create projects in various disciplines including math, history, science, English, foreign language, and religion.
In an effort to bring technology and innovation to every class on campus, the Middle School has a dedicated Maker & Innovation Coordinator who works with both students and faculty to facilitate the use of design thinking and making to help enrich curriculum across all disciplines. In addition to bringing new ideas to the middle school classrooms, they work closely with students to create “dream projects” during Maker Art classes and various electives.