George Lucas Educational Foundation

Student Voice: Experiencing Deeper Learning Through PBL

Although high school student Rahil had some academic struggles after immigrating from Fiji just a few years ago, he found opportunity and purpose in the project-based curriculum at Impact Academy.
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Student Voice: Experiencing Deeper Learning Through PBL (Transcript)

Rahil: I was born in Suva, which is the capital of Fiji, and life was different in almost every single way.

My father felt that if I received a college education here I would be a lot more successful, so that was one of the significant reasons we left Fiji.

I started eighth grade here and I struggled academically at first.

Coming here to Impact was really the key thing that helped me change, because I was given a chance to start over.

My name is Rahil Maharaj and I go to Impact Academy of Arts and Technology in Hayward, which is a small project-based learning school.

We focus on a couple of really important leadership skills, like collaborate productively, critical thinking, communicate powerfully, and complete projects effectively.

So, along with making sure that students are keeping up with the content, they’re also getting these life skills that they’ll need to be successful in college and in the workplace.

An assignment that I had for my AP government class was the paper on federalism. This paper focused on the Constitution and analyzing the Constitution to determine whether the state or the federal government should be in charge of a specific issue.

All the students were given the choice to pick any issue, and I picked immigration. The states recently have been passing laws and the federal government has been deeming them unconstitutional.

My family immigrated here so it kind of pertained to me as well. And it really evoked something in me to research and see what the actual solution to that issue would be.

After researching all the current affairs about immigration I began looking for laws that would give powers to Congress or give powers to the states. Immigration is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, so you have to analyze more generalized law and apply it.

I came to the conclusion that the federal government should be in charge, because not only is Congress responsible for national security, the rights should be consistent throughout every state, because we do as a nation believe in equality.

I think deeper learning is when a student learns something beyond the content that we’re supposed to, where they’re able apply their experiences or apply the knowledge that they receive from other classes into what they’re doing.

Learning something through deeper learning really means internalizing the information.

Before coming to Impact I wasn’t really sure whether or not I had the right skills and grades to be able to go to college.

Impact gave me the inspiration that I was going to have the skills to be successful in college.

It is really important for me to go to college because it will give me the skills and knowledge that I need to succeed, which is the key reason that my parents came here, to ensure that my brothers and I have a successful career and a happy life.

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  • Director / Editor: Alyssa Fedele
  • Cinematographer: Richard Parks
  • Senior Manager of Video Programming, Production, and Curation: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: David Markus

Rahil's school, the Impact Academy of Arts and Technology, is part of the Envision Education group of charter schools. Envision Education has a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to pursue a strategy called deeper learning, which encourages 21st-century skills. You may find resources at the Hewlett Foundation's Deeper Learning landing page. Get practical ideas on encouraging deeper learning in the classroom from our series:

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Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I think so! It's less a matter of what you have (or don't have) than how you use it. I think of PBL as a mindset around how you plan what your students will be doing. Figure out how the content you're teaching connects to the context in which your students will use that knowledge, and then plan the learning around that. Students solve problems and create projects or products around the intersection of content and context- you create the setting that makes that possible. (And the best part is you can bring the problems to the kids! Only have 2 books for 20 kids? Ask the kids how they would solve that problem. Make it part of the work. Limited resources and technology is a part of life- figuring out how to work around those situations is part of learning how to live in the world.)


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