Lower School Faculty Member Tracy Bernstein Presents Project-Based Learning Units at NJAIS' Innovation and Collaboration Conference

This past summer, Lower School faculty member Tracy Bernstein was selected to present at the NJAIS conference titled "Innovation and Collaboration" on August 9-10. Mrs. Bernstein, who teaches 5th grade, presented an hour-long workshop on Backwards Design — a blueprint for planning units of study created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe made popular in their book Understanding by Design. Mrs. Bernstein uses Backwards Design to create new project-based learning units in her classroom at GOA and was thrilled to share her ideas with a larger academic community. 

During the workshop, Mrs. Bernstein showcased some of the projects she currently teaches in 5th grade social studies, including a unit on explorers. In this unit, students role play as curators of the Golda Och Academy Museum of World Culture. They are tasked with creating a Google Slides presentation to convince the Museum Director (Mrs. Bernstein) why their explorer should be included in the new exhibit. This past year, Mrs. Bernstein also redesigned a unit of study around the 50 states, which she also discussed in her presentation. Each 5th grade class section created a board game about the 50 states and played it with the 4th graders. 

Project-based learning offers students a chance to engage collaboratively with their peers. It teaches real world life skills such as problem solving, a chance to receive feedback and use constructive criticism for a real purpose. Mrs. Bernstein said, “Every day students came into class asking, ‘Are we working on the state game?’ It made the end of the year exciting for the students. I’m hopeful it is one they will remember for many years.” 

This year Mrs. Bernstein is excited to collaborate with other Lower School teachers who are creating new, project-based learning units.