NBSS Blog

Extending Our Reach
Extending Our Reach
John Arvanitis

An instructor working with a middle school student

NBSS has a long history of successful partnerships with other schools in Boston. The programs focus on project-based learning, which offer all students the opportunity to succeed, especially those who don't perform well in a typical classroom setting.

This past year marked the most recent collaboration of this kind, occurring with the Donald McKay K-8 School. Funded by the EdVestors' 2018 School Solutions Seed Fund, the new program extends the School's reach to East Boston, a diverse community just across the harbor from our North End neighborhood.

The pilot program brought two sixth-grade classes to NBSS once a week to craft "objects" (in this case, name tags and pencil boxes), which showed students how seemingly abstract knowledge can translate to the real world. These projects were specifically designed to explore volume, fractions, and surface area standards that students were already learning as a part of their sixth-grade required curriculum.

"Our goal was to get the students more engaged with the math curriculum through hands-on problem solving," says Katie Theodoros, Director of Continuing Education at NBSS. "We also worked with their teachers to show that project-based learning can be valuable in generating excitement about math, especially at an age when some kids are losing interest in that subject."

The successful collaboration between NBSS and Donald McKay K-8 School was mutually beneficial. The school's teachers discovered a new way to implement learning standards with fun activities that encourage exploration and problem-solving. For NBSS, this partnership was the perfect opportunity to craft these types of programs, ensuring that they're well-received by students of all abilities and that the outcomes are meaningful.

"These projects really helped kids who don't do well in traditional learning environments like reading groups, lectures, or writing assignments. They gave those students a chance to excel."

Katy Peake, lead faculty member for the McKay School, saw firsthand how students worked through some of these projects. She points out how much it offered her students. "It was definitely the most enjoyable part of the school day," says Katy. "These projects really helped kids who don't do well in traditional learning environments like reading groups, lectures, or writing assignments. They gave those students a chance to excel."

In addition to the intended outcomes of the partnership, the collaborative program also enhanced students' moods, self-expression, engagement, and enthusiasm for learning. Trips to NBSS likewise offered students a break from their regular academic schedule.

Katy enjoyed the time she was able to connect with her students while working through the projects together. "An overwhelmingly positive aspect of the experience was being able to spend time with students while they were creating something," she says. "I was learning right alongside them, too—trying things out, and even messing up! It helped me develop a closer relationship to my students overall."

This article is from our 2018 Annual Report. See all the stories here, or download a pdf of the entire report.


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