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Project Based Learning movement grows

The Christian Teachers Academy hosted its fifth intensive Project Based Learning (PBL) professional development opportunity August 21-25, and this year 12 Korean Christian educators joined the Ontario event.

“It was a privilege to work with the Korean group,” says Justin Cook, Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) Director of Learning and one of the Academy’s coaches.

Cook and Harry Blyleven – the Academy’s executive director and Computer Technology teacher at Hamilton District Christian High – travelled to Korea this summer and last to lead PBL workshops. The relationship began when a group of Korean educators visited Canada a few years ago and discussed PBL with Cook.

“It is our vision to think about the Academy forming partnerships both locally and abroad,” Cook says. The Korean leaders were invited to the Academy to work on creating their own academy.

“We agree that learning from their own educational leaders is going to be much more effective and sustainable than having us parachute in and do these workshops,” Blyleven says.

Sharing what’s happening in Ontario and having the Korean group think about starting their own iteration is exciting, Cook says, noting there will be learning opportunities in the future between the groups.

“A colleague from out west summarizes [PBL] as ‘doing real work that meets a real need for real people.’ That idea of real meaningful work is becoming a movement, not only in Ontario but across the world, and it is exciting to partner in that,” Cook tells Christian Courier.

The Academy brings together partner groups such as OACS, Edifide, OCSAA, EduDeo and Christian School Foundation. The idea originated among teachers at Hamilton District Christian High in Ancaster, which hosts the event.

Growing from 23 participants its first year to 85 this year, the Academy offers four different course options for educators at different PBL stages.

“There is such a high level of passion and excitement in the culture of the Academy and so it is incredible to be in that kind of environment as we are starting to ramp up for a new school year,” Cook says. Participants designed a PBL project for their students, and on the final day presented them to a room of guests.

“We invited them to take a risk in their own teacher growth and in their own journey in the classroom,” Blyleven says. Coaches aimed to create a learning culture rooted in restorative practices with many talking circles so everyone has a voice. With more Christian educators using PBL in their pedagogy Cook says a culture-making narrative is unfolding.

“We are seeing much more clearly what it means to be image bearers of God, contributing to the flow of creation and the Biblical story from garden to city,” he says. On a practical level, student engagement increases as they see their contributions apply to a larger context.

In Abbotsford, B.C., a PBL Residency formed, which hosts a similar summer academy. Combined with the Academy, about 150 Christian Canadian educators were involved in PBL this summer.

“There is a national movement that’s happening as well as an international movement, which is exciting,” Cook says.  

  • Jennifer is CC's advertising and social media manager. She lives in Cobourg, Ont. with her husband and three children. Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University.

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