Engaging Students Through Projects at Bailey Bridge Middle School

Engaging students in learning through projects is a core component of the Summit Learning Program, and it’s one of the things that first drew Bailey Bridge Middle School’s Zach Jernigan, a 6th grade science teacher, to the approach. “I really loved the fact that students got to work with something longer, they got to think about it a little more in depth, and work on understanding the content knowledge and those skills that we’re teaching them,” he said.

Since beginning the Summit Learning Program in 2017, Bailey Bridge Middle School staff have observed an uptick in student engagement as they learn through projects across all subjects.

A favorite project amongst students and teachers is the Forces at Work-Rollercoaster Design, which is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards and part of Summit Learning’s project library. Zach further modified the project of it his grade-level’s curriculum and state standards.

I like working in a group… it has helped me because instead of one brain, it’s a lot of brains helping each other.”

— Hunter, 6th Grade Student

Watch the video above to hear 6th Grade Students Jasmine and Hunter, and their Science Teacher Zach Jernigan, share why this project made an impact.

Purposeful Focus on Building Cognitive Skills

From designing and engineering a roller coaster in science to creating a podcast on “what it means to live a good life” in English, students are constantly developing and refining learned Cognitive Skills. In the Rollercoaster Design project, for example, Bailey Bridge 6th graders took responsibility for researching gravity and friction and designing a process for testing the effects of both forces on their “marble run roller coasters.”

Having the opportunity to collaborate in a group, says Hunter, allows students to build to learn and build knowledge with the help of peers: “I like working in a group… it has helped me because instead of one brain, it’s a lot of brains helping each other.” 

Student Ownership of Learning Through Projects

When it comes to projects, Zach says that beginning with the end objective and ensuring all students have a clear understanding of where they’re headed gives them more ownership over their learning throughout a project.

Teachers can then spend time helping students develop accountability for their individual and group work, also an important lifelong skill. Zach describes one of his strategies for working with students to establish these norms: “They wrote up a contract… and said these are our rules, this is what we’re going to do for the team, this is how we’re going to hold each other accountable.”

Bailey Bridge Middle School’s 6th-grade team has committed to implementing all three Summit Learning Components — Projects, Mentoring, and Self-Direction — and the team’s unified vision and approach has drawn neighboring schools and districts, who are interested in learning more about the Program, into their classrooms.

This post is part of our Summit Learning Spotlight series. Follow the Summit Learning Spotlight tag to get the latest Spotlight school and teacher stories.

About the author

Lauren Faggella
A storyteller and former educator, Lauren Faggella is dedicated to turning the Summit Learning community's stories and ideas into great content that informs and inspires a range of audiences. Prior to joining Summit Public Schools, Lauren was a professional freelance writer and third-grade teacher in Rhode Island. She earned her MEd from the University of Rhode Island and BA in English from Elon University.