North Central Takes Part In Problem Based Learning

PBL-pictures1-WEBBy: Allyson Hutchison

After their Christmas hiatus, in the already bustling halls of North Central, the students prepared for a week unlike any other. The staff of North Central High School divided the grades into groups for a week referred to as Problem Based Learning or, “PBL Week”. Throughout this week, the students worked in their assorted groups to create a solution to a problem as well as the assigned classwork pertaining to the problem.

In a conversation with Mr. Tim Rettig, the high school principal at North Central, he claimed that this idea came from a professional development day with Bowling Green State University three years ago. “We have had BGSU do our professional development for the past 3 years. One of their suggestions has been to incorporate PBL as part of our curriculum. The week was developed from that initial conversation,” Mr. Rettig stated. The staff wanted to instill the ability to work well in teams to resolve a problem to equip the students for the real world and their future jobs. Each year, Mr. Rettig and the staff work to improve the way the project is run. To make the week challenging but fun for all of the students.

The first year, the students were challenged to make a catapult strong enough to launch a pie, which would be thrown into the face of the principal himself, Mr. Rettig. The second year, Mr. Rettig related the project to a problem close to home, algae blooms. The students were assigned the task of making a water filter and doing some research on algae blooms, like the ones in Toledo. This year, the students were required to build a cardboard boat and oars to carry two members of their team across the pool at the YMCA.

Though each time the students do this project they build something, this week is not just a week of hands-on learning. As well as the difficulty of designing and building something, the students are required to incorporate their regular core classes (English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies) into the project. This year, the students had to be able to calculate a plimsoll line (how far a boat will sink with the weight in it), create four different types of literature based off an anchor document they read, develop a chant that included the name of the boat to yell as the boat raced, write a research paper over why they chose the design for their boat, and do a group activity to learn what would happen if they did not work as a team while they built their boat. This week is jam packed with necessary skills each student will need as they go through life.

Though the week can be grueling for some, it was all worth it when the teams went to the YMCA on Friday, January 8th. The excitement buzzed through each student as the busses unloaded. Some were optimistic their boat would do well, others were apprehensive theirs might sink. Even though some boats did not make it past the starting line, and many of the students in the boats ended up getting wet, the week was a success and all of the people involved had a good time and gained valuable knowledge. The students did such an outstanding job, that Mr. Rettig was confident enough to take one of the winning boats across the pool. He was doing well and almost completed his journey to the other side, until the students bombarded him with human cannon balls, making sure the boat capsized, but most importantly that he got wet!

Allyson may be reached at

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