The Mancos School District RE-6 continues to develop the rigor of its project-based learning endeavors.
And to better support these efforts, former school board treasurer Ed Whritner will be stepping into the newly created position of PBL coordinator.
“We want to make Mancos schooling as engaging and rigorous for its students as possible – PBL can do that, but ONLY with the right kind of support in place,” Whritner told The Journal in an email. “I plan to be that support.”
Project-based learning is an educational practice that emphasizes hands-on learning driven by students themselves. In recent years, Mancos schools have pushed PBL in all grade levels, from student-designed science projects to turning novels into problem-solving expeditions. Teachers can check out PBL carts filled with a variety of design and craft materials to help classes pursue these opportunities.
In March, Superintendent Brian Hanson brought up the possibility of creating a separate position to support teachers and better coordinate the district’s efforts.
“To be that person who focuses with teachers or teams of teachers, who’s the go-to person for project-based learning,” Hanson said at the March 18 board meeting. “Who is the support person for it, who team teaches with teachers, who develops these ideas.”
Whritner was hired through an application and interview process, and his new position was officially approved at a June 24 school board meeting. Current board policy required him to resign from his school board post.
“There are ways to change that board policy, with board approval, but we felt that in order to maintain BOE integrity it would be best for me to resign,” Whritner said. “I will truly miss serving the community in that role.”
In addition to serving on the Mancos school board, Whritner has taught in Southwest Colorado since 2010, most recently at Southwest Open School in Cortez. He will be stepping down from this post as well to take on the full-time PBL coordinator job.
While he has many thoughts on how to approach the new position, Whritner said he plans to initially hold some informational sessions for community members to clarify what project-based learning is and how it operates.
In late July, Whritner will help facilitate teacher training led by the Bucks Institute of Education, a nonprofit that focuses on developing and honing PBL instructional practices. He also plans to take a “deep dive into test scores” in order to determine the most appropriate resources and work groups.
“My highest priority at the outset will be to meet with all teachers, one-on-one, to gauge where they are in regards to how deep they want to dive into the PBL process in the 2019-20 school year,” he said. “From that point I can begin to do a lot of the logistical legwork for teachers to help their projects grow.”