Students at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School recently spent eight days exploring a topic of their choice during what the school calls “project period.” On Dec. 20, right before school vacation, students exhibited their work to fellow students, their teachers, family, and friends.
The Charter School has overseen the cornerstone program twice a year since it opened in 1996. Fifth through twelfth graders worked together in groups, focusing on the students’ many interests — outdoor education, international film, astronomy, model making, travel, nutrition and exercise, portfolio building, and cooking. Charter School director Bob Moore told The Times that project period allows students to devote their time to something they’re interested in. “Kids’ interests should be revered and respected,” Mr. Moore said. “This does that in a large way.”
Mr. Moore said it it leads students into their holiday break with a sense of purpose.
Sophomore Ryan Laslovich told The Times that working together with students in different grades was one of the foundations of project period. “That’s what project period is about, having fifth graders work together with high schoolers,” he said.
Students reported being inspired by project period, where the learning goes beyond the classroom. Ryan focused on astronomy, and he and fellow students went to the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) at Harvard University, and met professors who were “beyond intelligent,” he said. They used telescopes, made sundials, tested the validity of astrology, and even brought a stargazing dome from Harvard to the Island, which they set up on Dec. 20. Students could go into the dome and look at the night sky.
“They’ve chosen this,” Paul Karasik, development director of the Charter School, said of the students picking their own projects. “It doesn’t matter their age. It’s their choice, and they can come and share their interests.”