The students in Flight by Design, an engineering and math course at Raisbeck Aviation High School in the Highline School District are immersed in a year-long project to design an airfoil. In the process, the students are learning about engineering, math, and science while also collaborating and communicating effectively with their team. Their project culminates this spring with a presentation to a group of airplane manufacturers.

In this episode of the podcast we’re throwing it back to one of their favorite episodes from season one where they explore and listen to student stories around their experiences with project-based learning (PBL); have an interview with a project-based learning STEM teacher of Flight by Design; as well as hear from education leaders in the project-based world, Bob Lenz and John Larmer of Buck Institute for Education (BIE).

From small STEM schools such as Aviation, to large comprehensive high schools such as Westwood High School in South Carolina, students are engaged in authentic and meaningful project work. Students master academic content and also hone their communication, critical thinking and collaboration, thereby promoting deeper learning outcomes for more students.

In today’s episode, you can look forward to hearing answers to questions such as: how do projects make students feel? What is it like, from a student’s point of view and a teacher’s point of view, to participate and lead meaningful projects? What skills do projects teach? And why is project-based learning, perhaps, a necessity for our democracy? You can also look forward to hearing BIE Executive Director Lenz discuss his inspiration for the work he does to spread high-quality project-based learning across the country (and the world); and John Larmer, author and BIE editor in chief, telling the team exactly what constitutes a high-quality project.

Key Takeaways:

[:16] About today’s rerun episode from season 1!
[:48] What Megan thinks about when she hears the word “project.”
[1:50] Did Megan do any cool and meaningful projects back when she was a student?
[2:40] About the students in the Flight by Design class and their latest project.
[3:20] FbD students explain their project assignment and what it has taught them.
[4:50] The students’ career goals and how this project has helped them come one step closer to reaching those goals.
[6:00] The importance of the skills these students are learning with project-based learning.
[6:55] What these students would tell their future selves.
[7:44] How mentors that partner with Flight by Design have helped students learn.
[8:30] How this student learns best.
[9:05] What the student likes best about project-based learning.
[10:40] An introduction to the teacher who teaches the students who were just interviewed.
[11:03] The teacher introduces himself and explains the Flight by Design class and how their projects work.
[17:01] The teacher’s recommendations to other teachers on creating a better class environment and more effective projects.
[20:25] About Getting Smart’s next few interviews: Bob Lenz and John Larmer of Buck Institute for Education (BIE).
[20:56] John describes what a good student project is.
[22:18] Bob talks about an impactful project he did in the 5th grade under the instruction of his teacher, Mr. Cooper.
[23:37] Bob’s thoughts on the way students most effectively learn.
[24:23] Why Bob started working as Executive Director at BIE and his excitement for PBL.
[26:14] What people should do if they want to learn more.

Mentioned in This Episode:

Buck Institute for Education (BIE)
Raisbeck Aviation High School
Highline School District
Westwood High School
PBL World (#PBLWorld)

For more, see:


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