Forming the Future: 'PB and J' at St. Bridget School in Abington

ABINGTON -- Students at St. Bridget School look forward to their weekly "PB and J."

"There's no peanuts involved," joked principal Matthew Collins. "Our 'PB and J' stands for 'Project-Based Journeys.'"

According to Collins, every September the students are grouped by grade levels -- kindergarten through grade 2, grades three through five, and middle schoolers. The students in each grade level are then broken up into four different groups and participate in one of four 8-week projects. Throughout the year, each student has the opportunity to participate in each of the four projects in that grade level.

For the youngest level, projects include puppetry and Claymation, stop motion animated films using clay figures. The second group of students works on activities such as bridge-building and playwriting. Middle schoolers' projects include Asian art, problem solving and architecture.

"Each project must include aspects of ELA (English language arts), math, science and social studies incorporated into a fun, interesting, different perspective," Collins said.

Collins explained that when he first became principal of the school five years ago, he noticed that because there were only 200 students in the K-8 school, there was one classroom in each grade. Although that fostered a very close-knit community, he wondered if it might also inhibit certain students from taking risks educationally because students never worked outside their small circle of classmates.

After researching similar initiatives, he launched 'PB and J' one year later, with the support of the teaching staff.

"For the teachers, it was a bit of a burden because I was essentially asking them to prepare a whole other class, in addition to everything they were already doing," he said, "but everyone was very supportive and was very much behind the success of this initiative."

Collins noted that 'PB and J' "provides opportunities for students to excel outside of their individual classrooms."

"It's a great way to break up the students in order to expand hands-on learning and provide students the opportunity to work with different groups of peers," he said.

According to Collins, it has been a success.

"Students definitely enjoy it," he added, noting that the projects are not graded in a traditional way.

"The expectation is on conduct and effort, not on the finished product," he said.

"It has really changed things up," said Collins. "Students get to expand upon their typical classroom environment, and I would say that most of them, at least 90 percent of them, really look forward to their PB and J hour."