Project based learning (PBL) is an interactive way for youth in the SkillSource Learning Center to gain work readiness and leadership skills, while also having fun! The six-week long project offers students paid incentives so that they can earn while they learn new skills that will be useful in the future.

This year’s PBL began in early February when five students came together with their youth trainers, Mitch and Bea, to develop a project for the Special Olympics Winter Games. The five students – Parker, Kolton, Stacy, Shyanna, and Dawson — decided to build a corn hole game from scratch, and decorate it with an “Under the Sea” theme.

During the first half of their project, the students learned about different disabilities through various class activities and videos. They learned about how disabilities aren’t always visible, and they even ventured out into town with a wheelchair, where they discovered obstacles to accessibility, and what it felt like to be treated differently due to a perceived disability.

The second half of the project was hands-on. The students went shopping for the materials to build their game, and then set out with the right tools to measure, cut, shape, sand, paint, and decorate! When asked what the most difficult part of the project was, Kolton and Dawson responded that it was tricky when drilling holes to make sure the wood didn’t crack and split! The challenge led them to make new decisions for their project, and they then selected different sized boards that wouldn’t crack when drilled. See the behind-the-scenes on Facebook.

The students completed their beautiful new board game in time for the Special Olympics Winter Games. They volunteered at events up at Mission Ridge, attended the Opening Ceremony at Town Toyota Center, and set up the game at Olympic Town at the Wenatchee Convention Center. The game was a huge hit! Athletes lined up to take their turn tossing the starfish-shaped bean bags into the holes, and the students handed out prizes to all who participated. They also had art supplies and stickers on hand so participants could decorate their own gold crowns. Smiles were abundant, and a sense of accomplishment and pride were well-earned.

Parker, Kolton, Stacy, Shyanna, and Dawson will now be able to showcase their newfound skills on their resumes, and their SkillSource trainers will help guide them to work experience opportunities where those skills can be utilized. Next year the students will get the chance to volunteer with the Special Olympics, and several of them are looking forward to participating in the polar plunge!

Project based learning is a fun and foundational part of helping to bridge the gap between classroom-based education and real-world applications. The skills that they have acquired, and the relationships formed during this experience will have a lasting impact, and we are so impressed by their commitment and hard work. Great job, students!