Hamden Hall Country Day School

Educating students in PreSchool through Grade 12

Why Project Based Learning?

As students prepare for the challenges of a rapidly changing world and a constantly evolving job market, the traditional model of education has come under close scrutiny. As we attempt to build skills that students will need to succeed at jobs that do not yet exist, we must learn to balance traditional curricula with innovative, twenty-first century educational practices. Our students must learn to be creative thinkers, expert researchers, and productive collaborators. Educational luminaries such as Sir Ken Robinson and National Association of Independent Schools President Pat Bassett have repeatedly urged schools to foster student curiosity and passion through authentic projects rather than constant, memorization-based testing. Toward this end, the Hamden Hall Middle School sets aside time each year to embark on a division-wide project. We believe that students learn as much, or even more, from the high level of engagement engendered by these rigorous tasks. On this page, please note some of the projects that have been undertaken in previous years, and please take a look at the pictures of our students at work and at play. 

Highlights of Our Project Based Learning Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • A Mock Political Convention

    Timed to coincide with each Presidential election, students role-play a fictitious third party and nominate a candidate to take on the Democrats and Republicans. Students may be assigned to a wing of the party, a regional delegation, or the media corps. After rallies, debates, and endless campaigning (sound familiar?), the party gathers in Taylor Gym for an old-fashioned, pomp and circumstance filled convention. Along the way, students learn the language of politics and gain a degree of appreciation for the ongoing presidential race that could not be acquired in a traditional classroom.
  • The Earth Summit

    Challenges teams of students to design a sustainable city of the future. Each team is given a topographical model of a geographic location, and they need to decide which methods to use to provide energy, shelter, food, transportation, and dispose of waste. The task for them is to not only weigh which technology works the best, but to also decide how to position materials and resources. All of this must be done with an eye toward minimizing the carbon footprint of the city. During each of the two iterations of this project, the level of enthusiasm in each team’s workroom was overwhelming. Watching students gather around the map to passionately debate the placement of the city’s infrastructure provided another reminder of why projects are so important at the Middle School level.
  • A Public Service Announcement (PSA) Competition

    Run by our Academic Technology Coordinator, Sarah Ludwig. Over an extended period of time, each Middle School advisor group competes to see who can write, direct, shoot, and edit the best PSA. A preliminary list of broad topics is given to the students, and each advisor group brainstorms a way to turn the larger issue into a more specific, targeted message. With the use of Hamden Hall owned video cameras and computers, students create videos that last between thirty and sixty seconds. Within each advisor group, students are given clearly defined roles with tasks that need to be completed. The project culminates with a “film festival” of sorts, during which the groups present their concepts and finished PSAs, and the judges use a rubric to decide on the top three. The 2011 winner was a powerful black and white entry that tackled the issue of name-calling and bullying.
  • An Original Play

    Written by Middle School actors under the guidance of theater director Charlie Alexander. Students created a period piece after researching turn-of-the-century New Haven. After learning about labor strife in 1912, the year of Hamden Hall’s founding, they wrote a script collaboratively on GoogleDocs, and they created a fascinating playbill in the form of a nineteenth century newspaper comprised of student-written articles. Perhaps the highlight of this creative and unique enterprise was a series of black and white cast photos taken in costume around the city of New Haven. The end result was a memorable, well-acted play that explored class issues in a rich and meaningful way.

Hamden Hall Country Day School

About Us

Hamden Hall Country Day School is a nurturing and inclusive community with a dynamic learning environment that promotes academic excellence by understanding each child and fostering their individual growth.