Project-based learning offers community connection to students


Dominic Walker’s second-semester Project-based Learning class. May 26, 2022.

The Plymouth-Canton Educational Park (P-CEP) offers around 300 different courses on campus, with a mix of required and elective courses. One course in particular, Project-based Learning (PBL), stands out amongst the rest.

PBL is a semester-long course offered at P-CEP as an elective credit. Due to the lack of students enrolling in this course, the past three school years only had one period of this class, taught by Dominic Walker, Salem Teacher.

According to the 2022-23 P-CEP course catalog, “Leadership: Project-Based Learning” is “a leadership development course built around students developing seven foundational leadership skills. This course is both for students who already demonstrate leadership qualities and are looking to enhance their skills, or students who desire to become leaders and are looking to gain and develop leadership qualities. Students learn and utilize the skills in the classroom community and eventually throughout the Park and the Plymouth-Canton community.”

Walker named the “seven foundational leadership skills.”

“Boundaries, empathy, growth, respect, expectations, assertiveness and trust.” Together, the skills form the acronym “BE GREAT”.

“The BE GREAT skills are the foundation of our course and [are] essential to successful leadership,” said Walker. “These skills ensure that a community is an active, engaging and enjoyable experience for leaders and those being led.” 

Many factors contribute as to why students aren’t enrolling in the course, such as not knowing the course exists. Many who take it are usually placed in the class by counselors when there is a gap in their school schedule.

“I didn’t know this course even existed until I saw it on my schedule for my second-semester third hour,” said Nate Richards, Canton senior.

The class isn’t new. 

“I don’t know the exact figure. But I know [the class has] been around at least a decade based on the curriculum that was created and past teachers that taught it before me that I was able to talk [to],” said Walker. “I know it’s been going on for at least a decade or longer.”

Walker believes the class is beneficial to any student who takes it, and that the class will help students strengthen the leadership skills they already had or even develop these skills for the first time.

 Walker said this on how students accomplish this.

“As you experience the first eight to nine weeks of the course, you are learning the leadership skills,” said Walker. “The remaining half of the semester is creating a community outreach program where we identify needs within our community. And we as a leadership group create programs to identify and match those needs, and make a positive difference within our own community by completing this capstone project, which is the overall goal of the entire course.”

Students taking the class provided specifics on what they were doing for their community outreach project.

“Our project is essentially providing [necessities] such as hand sanitizer and toiletries for residents at the Regency at Canton, which is a senior living home,” said Benjamin Matthews, Salem senior.

Steps groups take to complete the project include finding out what they want to do, finding a way to fund the project and executing the project.

“We started off by creating a list of things that [the senior living facility] needed after contacting [the staff]. We tried raising money through [school] congress, but that didn’t work out. We solved [the issue] by having each group member pitch in,” said Benjamin Matthews, Salem senior.

The group also hosted a two-hour bingo session for the senior citizens before handing out the gifts purchased.

“Overall the project went pretty smoothly and it felt good helping out our [community],” Matthews said.

Other groups also hosted different programs including getting toys for children in need, donating books and raising money to support different drives.

Overall, Project-based learning allows students to build leadership and make a community connection that most classes don’t offer.