Dottke Uses New Learning Model to Engage and Empower Students

Dottke Uses New Learning Model
Posted on 11/11/2020
Jesse Masloroff

When Jesse Masloroff, a senior at Dottke, realized he needed an English credit for graduation, he signed up for a seminar called “Storytelling in Song Lyrics.” The result was an original composition called Summertime HERE that was uploaded to Youtube this fall.  As a part of James E. Dottke High School’s transformation to being 100% project-based learning, staff members have worked hard to develop courses and seminars that provide students with opportunities to connect their learning with hands-on, real world experiences. 

“Masloroff has been playing piano off and on since he was a little kid, but became more intentional about practicing and developing his musical skills in the past year or so. Recently, he added guitar to his repertoire and often be seen and heard playing in between classes and during lunch in The Nest (Dottke’s recording studio) last year,” said Deeper Learning Coach Alex Bruzan. “We’ve implemented a model that gives students the flexibility they need to explore and create projects while ensuring they demonstrate mastery of the content material.”

According to Masloroff, he chose “Storytelling in Song Lyrics” because of his natural love of creating music and his desire to make people smile with the music he creates.  However, prior to taking the seminar, he had never written a song with lyrics before. 

“Mrs. Daugherty helped me learn how to write song lyrics,” said Masloroff. “The class really helped me to expand my own knowledge.”

“One of the main reasons we decided to shift our programming at Dottke was to give more students opportunities to do work that matters to them,” said Bruzan. “We found that students were going through classes without being able to identify something they were proud of or making something they felt was an accomplishment.  We find students excel when the work they are doing has personal meaning.” 

“There was an ‘aha moment’ when I realized I could actually do this. I started with a simple chord progression in a program called Soundtrap and ended up working on it for almost 15 hours straight,” explained Masloroff.  “I ended up with something I am proud of and able to share.”

“That’s the beauty of deeper learning and project-based learning in general. It gives space for students to express their individual identities while learning about and showing mastery of core academic content in creative ways” adds Bruzan. “Our new independent project based learning model helps ensure that students are given that freedom and flexibility while maintaining rigor. Students engage in the creation process through setting goals and benchmarks while completing reflections at set intervals in the process. This gives students the structure they need while still giving them the freedom to create.”