Project-Based Learning (PBL) is the curricular core of Avalon. With PBL, students design their own education as they brainstorm, design, and execute independent, student-initiated projects.
With guidance from advisors, PBL allows students to engage deeply in their study while learning independence and self-direction.
PBL at Avalon
Emphasizing community, active learning, and engaged citizenship, Avalon’s project-based model prepares students by helping them develop their independence and connect their learning to the world beyond our walls. This connection pulls student work out of the classroom and extends it into the real world, providing context, relevance, and application. We push students to engage in the community – of Avalon, but also of St. Paul, Minnesota, the United States, and beyond – in order to gain the critical skills, perspectives, and empathy required to live out our mission:
“Avalon School seeks to establish a just world by nurturing an equitable school community for students that inspires active learning, social justice, engaged citizenship, and hope for the future.”
At Avalon, a student's day is a blend of independent, student-designed projects and teacher-led seminars. This blend allows students time and space to explore their passions while also participating in the larger community, engage with their peers, and benefit from structured learning opportunities designed by content experts. Finally, this blend of student-initiated projects and classes create a flexible schedule for students, allowing them to take advantage of internships, community experts, and Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), which enable Avalon students to pursue college level courses and credit through enrollment in local colleges and universities.
The middle school (6th-8th grade) program has been modeled after the successful program developed for the high school: personalized learning, academic excellence, respectful and safe community, authentic (active) learning, the belief in social justice, and life-long learning. See our Program Options page for more details.
Both our program build numerous activities around the project and study skills necessary to make project-based learning fun and meaningful. Students develop critical-thinking skills and positive relationships through authentic learning experiences.
Finally, to support and monitor learning in a Project-Based Learning model, Avalon utilizes Headrush.
In the high school, all projects build toward the Senior Project. To prepare for this final, capstone achievement, students are asked to complete larger, more in-depth projects yearly as they progress toward graduation. Here are the general guidelines:
Students in 9th grade are asked to get familiar with the project process through undertaking a variety of projects. In 9th grade, students work in the fall to create a few smaller projects with support from their advisor. Then, starting in the second quarter, students will embark on a 50-hour project that they will present for 5 minutes in the spring.
Students in 10th grade are asked to complete at least one project that is over 100 hours in length. This project should utilize 15 or more sources and end with a presentation of at least 10 minutes.
Students in 11th grade are asked to complete at least one project that is over 150 hours in length. This project should utilize 20 or more sources and end with a presentation of at least 15 minutes.
The Senior Project
The Senior Project is an intensive, year-long project that ends with a public, 30-minute presentation. For many, it represents the crowning academic achievement of their high school career, often launching a life-long passion for the subject. Every fall, seniors begin the long process together, participating in the Senior Retreat. Each senior must write a formal proposal that is approved by a committee of two advisors, a member of their household, a junior student, and an expert from the community.
Meant as the culmination of students' experience at Avalon, the senior project embodies the skills necessary for success in life after Avalon School: skills that prepare students for life after Avalon School. They demonstrate these skills by articulating goals they wish to achieve and thus the area in which they want to study, developing questions they wish to answer, finding resources, developing and sticking to a timeline to achieve their goals, and presenting their findings and products to their committee and the larger community in a 30-minute formal presentation at the end of the school year.
Many seniors use the senior project as a springboard to develop interests and skills they will go on to study at a post-secondary level. For example, one student designed and made a guitar he will use when he goes on to study at McNally Smith College of Music. Another student so impressed Franklin College Switzerland with her website on the Sensory Exploration of Peru that she landed herself a generous college scholarship. Students use the senior project to bridge their experience between high school and college.
During their senior presentations, the Avalon community joins in celebration around these wonderful exhibitions of learning.
Grade Level Project Expectations
Grade Level Project Rubric - This document shows the progress expected as students advance through grade levels from year to year.