By Alexa Battah ‘22
“The brain is wider than the sky,” according to Emily Dickinson, and Katie Shickman’s 9th Grade Honors English Class is ready to prove it. On December 13th, Conestoga Valley High School is holding its first ever Creative Minds Expo, an event designed to celebrate students’ work through Project Based Learning (PBL), a learning style that focuses on learning through a project as opposed to traditional lectures and tests exclusively. Each English classroom has a different topic they will showcase at the expo, with presentations that vary from writings and essays to a drama performance and film festival.
Lexie Kauffman, a student in Shickman’s class, is studying a chosen poet while creating a poem of her own mimicking the researched poet’s style. She, along with her group and other classmates, will display their poems with a unique video to add a visual representation of the ideas expressed.
“Poetry is a good way to express emotions and ideas without necessarily going right out and saying it, and it provides interpretation for everybody since everybody can look at a piece of poetry differently,” Kauffman said.
Kauffman had no prior knowledge of her chosen poet, Emily Dickinson, but after researching the writer in depth, with the help of online databases and books from the school library, she enjoyed learning about Dickinson’s life as a poet and as an ordinary person. After learning Dickinson was a recluse, Kauffman planned to make her poem mimic her style by adding elements of items she could find in her house along with adding a similar rhyme scheme. Kauffman also enjoys videography, so she is excited to create an animated video or a stop motion film with music.
Braxton Blessing, one of Kauffman’s classmates, is doing the same presentation with his research and poetry based on Langston Hughes. He also had no background on his poet, but he was interested to research the life of Hughes before he was a well-known writer.
Both Kauffman and Blessing agree that traditional learning and PBL should go hand in hand. They believe that traditional learning is a good starting point for learning and PBL can help students further their understanding on a topic.
“I feel like if you do too much traditional learning it’s boring, and if you do too much project- based learning then the class isn’t challenging because then you have no information to go off of because you never learned it before,” Blessing said. “[PBL and traditional learning] kind of need each other.”
As Langston Hughes once said, “Perhaps the mission of an artist is to interpret beauty to people – the beauty within themselves,” which is exactly what the students plan to do on the night of December 13th: exhibit the beauty of learning, hard work, and literacy.