Meeting With Our Community Partner

Last week, I had my second meeting with Beth and Courtenay about the Castle Museum Project set to open in May. In case you may have missed my first post, the Castle is a non for profit based in Putnam County, Indiana that focuses on invigorating curriculum using the arts and project-based learning (PBL). Click on this link ( if you want to read more about this amazing organization! This year, the Castle has partnered with the Putnam County Museum to open a childrens’ exhibition that features various exhibits created by the students of different classrooms all throughout Putnam County. Courtenay Hayes is a second grade teacher in Putnam County, and I have partnered with her to observe and experience all of the in’s and out’s of PBL.

In PBL, community partners play a huge role in the launching and development of the project. Their presence and active participation help to make an authentic learning experience for students of all ages. Before I started researching PBL, I did not fully grasp the importance of the community partner. I thought they came to present a problem to the class and then came to see the final project. In reality, the community partner should be as involved as possible. Having an outside party actively engaged in the entire process changes the energy inside and outside of the classroom. 

Courtenay and I are working with a local business that specializes in commercial swimming pool design and maintenance. Tim Smith, a member of the company, agreed to be our main contact for the project! I met Tim for the first time at this meeting, and Courtenay met Tim at a kick-off event for the Museum Project. At our first meeting without Tim, we had thought about creating a water table exhibit to showcase the movement properties of water; however, we had no idea how to go about starting the project especially because the second graders can’t be using power tools to make a table.

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Immediately, Tim rattled off tons of ideas and plans for how to bring the water table to life. He mentioned his excitement and the excitement of his company for being a community partner and listed loads of things the company could do/provide. He suggested that his team could build the bare bones of a table to bring into the classroom, so the students have the opportunity to add pieces to the table later on. We also had been struggling with what to have in the table itself. If we built an authentic water table, there would need to be a way to filter the water to keep it clean. Without Tim’s expertise, we definitely would not have thought about that particular problem. Marbles could make a good replacement, but we don’t want to have any choking hazards in the exhibit. So far, we have decided golf balls may be our best option, but it’s all still in progress of course!

Having Tim as a member of our team has tripled the excitement we have about this project! His attentiveness and energy brought life to our conversation and our project. Courtenay brought up the question of how to separate the project into classroom time and actual time spent building the table. She wanted to have Tim involved in more than just creating the basic table for the class. He suggested having his engineering team come to the classroom with an example of how they draw up plans and build a miniature model for making a pool. They would come in with an example and bring materials for the students to make their own! That way, the students have an experience just like Tim does everyday. 

He also suggested a field trip to Spear Corporation for the students! Employees at the warehouse have training facilities available to them to use at all times. Tim explained how they could have the space set up for younger students to observe and even practice some of the techniques used in the creation and design of pools. Courtenay, Beth and I were ecstatic with all of Tim’s suggestions and his desire to be as involved as possible. This is how PBL should look at the beginning. I can’t wait for our next meeting before we launch the project! Comment down below if you have any stories from your first time launching a PBL project.

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