This is who we are: a family of innovators who are running in pursuit of impact. Within the public school system, project-based learning opportunities are limited. Through this program, we can grasp what we would have never thought was possible. Life change is indeed possible when students begin to reach out. The relationships that have developed because of this program are strengthening our school, Whitefish High School, and the community as a whole. Outreach is a priority in project-based learning, for when we branch out, our knowledge and character are challenged and enhanced.
Our class is made up of four teams: construction, microgreens, bees, and mechanics. Students, at the onset of the year, created their teams based on interest. Mr. Casazza, our instructor, lets us dictate what we learn whether or not we have the immediate resources or knowledge to make the vision a reality.
Through this program, we are able to create and run businesses. For example, we are currently producing and selling microgreens, and our 4th & Pine Mercantile is in operation during the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
We work with the community both as employees and as project operators. We are filling a job need in the community by working for local businesses during their work internship period where we are able to leave the school campus and go to work.
High-school graduates are also being taught how to be successful in the trades and teach the next generation. A teacher can impact 3,000 students in their career, and we hire future trade teachers outside of the high-school class who are looking to receive their teaching endorsements.
JMG, Jobs for Montana Graduates, is an organization that strives to prepare high-school students to run their race in pursuing higher education or a place within the workforce after graduation.
As of the 2021-2022 school year, 94% of JMG students graduated high school and are employed full-time. 35% of JMG students receive higher education and gain certificates. Overall, JMG has supported 26,500 students across Montana since 1990. Due to their support, our class has become a family, a team of passion-filled students, workers, and innovators. With JMG's support, we built a vegetable trailer that provides veggies throughout the harvest season. We have learned how to butcher chickens, work safely on a job site, maintain grit when life is tough, help struggling community members, and become leaders and learners.
Project-based learning is how we teach students on a job site. These skills test the student's ability to multitask, think quickly, and respect the work that they are doing. There are certain competencies that students must learn to be effective workers and effective leaders.
In construction, the number one concern is safety. Knowing what can hurt you on a job site is essential, but beyond that, attitude is everything. You can build up or break down your team with your actions; be accountable, show up on time, and anticipate the next task to make the job go by more smoothly.
As an addition to the program this year, the bees team has grown from a simple idea into a flourishing project.
Mr. Chris Bickford, the CSE coordinator, taught us how to harvest carrots and potatoes at Terrapin Farm. In a ninety minute school period, we were able to take a field trip to the farm, harvest, and be back at school for our next class.
The program focuses on helping students to learn to persevere through rough seasons in life, and to solve problems. If students don't know how to do something, they reach out to people in the community who can act as their mentors or they conduct their research online. The students have been taking charge of their learning beyond the program.
In the photograph above, one student, Ryan Economy shared with the class what it took from him to change the engine on his family's Cessna 206 airplane. He put in a turbocharged Lycoming 520 engine, and the complexity of this task was daunting, yet it taught Ryan to be extremely patient and to take it to step by step.