MPA Student Tackles Project-Based Learning in Baton Rouge

MPA Student Tackles Project-Based Learning in Baton Rouge-image

“Children are great imitators. So, give them something great to imitate.” -Anonymous 

I had the amazing opportunity over the break to be co-supervisor for a winter session course EDUC 2010 801-FLD Off-campus program: Education Program in Baton Rouge in Winter. The course brings together a multi-disciplinary team of undergraduate students to spend a week in January at a special elementary school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The elementary school has responded to low student test scores in a brave, unusual way: by integrating project-based learning and the arts into its curriculum.

Research confirms that project-based learning (PBL) is an effective and enjoyable way to learn. PBL also develops deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career, and civic life.

Interested in joining Cornell University's MPA program? We invite you to s chedule a visit to the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs!

Jacquelyn pictured with a group of students

To help the school build its capacity for project-based learning, this year I coordinated local trips in Louisiana for students in grades 4 and 5. The goal was to help them identify what they would like to be when they grew up, connect their interests to working towards and receiving a higher education, and encouraging a greater sense of purpose among the children. To achieve this goal we applied flexible, hands-on learning, channeling meaningful discussions, and visual reflection.

My role as a co-supervisor also involved leading and mentoring the undergraduate student’s taking the course. Every night during the trip, I encouraged them to contemplate about their day, taking the time to describe their challenges and benefits—for students, education professionals, and schools—of enacting project-based pedagogy vs. more conventional direct instruction. By tackling their thoughts every night, they were able to strategically think about how they would do things differently the next day.

Jacquelyn pictured with undergraduate team

At the end of the week, my group visited a local high school and we spoke with juniors about the benefits of receiving a higher education. After lunch, we helped paint a mural! By far one of my most rewarding experiences.

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Jacquelyn Chyrell Richards is a second-year MPA student who is concentrating her studies on Government, Politics and Policy.  A native New Yorker, she grew up on Long Island in a single-parent household and attended college as a first-generation student. She has fourteen years of experience advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves. She serves as the President of Cornell’s Black Graduate & Professional Student Association.

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