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You’ve heard about it, you’ve read articles about it, but is anyone really doing Project Based Learning (PBL) in Michigan? The answer is yes, and it is happening in Mt. Pleasant in mid-Michigan in the backyard of Central Michigan University.

At Renaissance Public School Academy, we are truly engaged in a renaissance of education—we don’t believe that school should look the same way in 2016 that it did in 1956 or even in 1916! We know that we can’t predict what tomorrow’s world will look like, but we know that people who can creatively solve problems, work collaboratively with a diverse population, communicate with precision and clarity, and think critically using logic and reason will be successful under any circumstances.

That’s why we have embraced PBL and a developmental approach that respects students’ intellectual, social, and emotional development in multi-age classrooms. In our K-8 school, students are placed in teams that span two to three typical grade levels where genuine differentiation is taking place with students working in centers and with partners on work that challenges them, regardless of their age. The student experience is at the center of our work and is guided by the belief that learning is fun and rewarding and school is a great place to be! And the results are beginning to show—our academic achievement continues to climb, we have an expanding gifted and talented program, and our parents are involved and love our school.

The only way to bring our vision to life is with committed people who love kids and are as excited about learning as their students. We know this doesn’t happen when you work in isolation and plan on your own so we have dedicated time every day for colleagues to work together as teams and once a week as a whole school. We have high expectations for our teachers because we believe that they know their students best, so we involve them in critical decision making, provide them with the resources they need, embrace great ideas and leadership, and celebrate the results of the hard work our teachers are engaged in day in and day out. Staff come together to create a caring atmosphere that supports growth as a team member and as a professional.

RPSA is a public charter school that opened in 1996. In that time, it has enjoyed Reward school status from the Michigan Department of Education as well as increasing enrollment and respect in the community. RPSA values and builds upon its relationships with community partners like All-Pro Dads, the Saginaw-Chippewa Tribe, 989 Keep It Local and Kids Hope Mentoring. These partnerships, along with a board of directors that supports PBL and teachers through their strategic planning and budgeting, make Renaissance Public School Academy a truly different and rewarding place to work.