PLYMOUTH — This year, Plymouth Community School Corporation has expanded its project-based learning (PBL) opportunities to include students in grades K-10.
K-8 PBL director Amy Gerard said that parents can fill out an early application for their student beginning Dec. 10.
"This is a brand new thing for us," said Gerard. "This year we are going to be accepting applications for grades K-10. This is the first year that we've asked people to apply at Lincoln Junior High and Riverside Intermediate School. The applications will be posted on each school's website."
Although both LJH and Riverside had specific groups of students working in a PBL environment this year, both schools will officially offer PBL in the 2013-14 school year. In grades K-5, 75 students will be accepted per grade. In grades 6-10, 100 students will be accepted per grade.
"We want parents to be able to chose whether this would be the right educational environment for their student, because it is so different from traditional instruction," said Gerard.
Project-based learning focuses on having students do "real world" projects and work primarily in groups with the teacher as more of a guide or facilitator. PCSC stepped fully into PBL instruction this school year, with the opening of the Weidner School of Inquiry and Washington Discovery Academy.
"There is a lot of excitement about PBL in our community, and I'm excited to see how our application process goes," said Gerard.
When thinking about whom to accept in PBL classrooms, administration considers the demographics of the school corporation.
"We try to mirror the current cultural, socio-economic, and special education population of the school corporation," explained Gerard. "But we want to encourage everyone to apply."
If more applications are received than there are spots available, the school corporation will use a "lottery" to determine who is accepted.
"We don't know what to expect," said Gerard. "We do currently have a waiting list in first and third grades at Washington."
She said that the response to PBL opportunities at Riverside and Lincoln Jr. High were so great that additional teachers have started using the format.
Parents of current PBL students will not have to reapply to keep their child in a PBL classroom. They will receive a letter from the school corporation asking them to "opt in" to keep their children in a PBL class. Parents also have the option to transfer their student back into a traditional classroom.
Early applications will be available at www.plymouth.k12.in.us  Dec. 10 through Dec. 21. The corporation will also take applications after Christmas break until Feb. 1.
"Parents can hope to know by the end of April whether or not their child has gotten in," noted Gerard.
Parent information sessions will be held Dec. 4 at 7:30 a.m. at Lincoln Jr. High auditorium, Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Riverside Intermediate School band room, and Dec. 6 at 12 p.m. (noon) at Washington Discovery Academy. Parents are encouraged to attend whichever session works with their schedule, regardless of where their child will be a student.