Washington DC’s Drew Elementary School serves 250 students in grades preK-5, with 100% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.
Two years ago, principal Naimah Salahuddin wanted to find out how Drew students experienced learning, so she and several teachers spent a day “shadowing” individual students. When she discovered that learning wasn’t memorable, that students wanted to do more with technology, she made some big changes: An emphasis on project-based learning and a Digital Citizenship course for students to learn computer skills such as word processing, web searching, slide creation, and more.
Students now collaborate on science projects, working together to research and create digital presentations about, for example, the water cycle or extreme weather events. Because they know their projects will be shared with their classmates and the larger community, they are motivated to do their best work. Student engagement levels have soared. “They’re so proud of their work,” Salahuddin says. “You can hear the level of excitement in their voices” when they talk about their projects. Her goal was to make learning memorable. She knows it’s working when she hears students talking about their projects – from last year.
The school district also took notice. Drew, which will start a 1:1 program next year, just received the district’s prestigious Innovation for Excellence award.