GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - All week we are on your side, tackling issues important to parents. Today we take a look at new teaching methods.

Has your child ever come home and asked for help on homework, only for it to be different than the way you were taught in school? It's because many districts are using new approaches, including project-based learning, technology integration, and conceptual math.

We visited three West Michigan schools to see how it all works, starting with Kent Innovation High School.

Project-Based Learning

We met with senior Mirabella Witte and her mom Amber Fox, to talk about their experience with project-based learning.

“She’s one who’s always made the connections to the real world in her learning, and really struggled with information sort of being deposited into her brain,” Fox said.

Witte said she has always wanted more out of her education.

“Project-based learning really helped answer this question I’ve always had in education, is why,” Witte said. “Why are we doing this, how does this relate.”

She and her mom both discussed the benefits of her time at Kent Innovation High School, where she developed a greater sense of identity, and skills such as leadership, initiative and communication.

Witte credits much of her success in school to project-based learning. When asked about her favorite project, Witte contemplated for a few moments.

“During my junior year, I was taking Econ and we used the idea of supply and demand to look at the teacher shortage, so we had someone come in and they presented to us about the teacher shortage, specifically to Grand Valley,” Witte said. “We were asked to come up with a solution.”

The principal at Kent Innovation, Jeff Bush, said project-based learning is more hands-on.

“It tends to be really focused on a community audience, or some kind of community connection,” Bush said. “Project based learning is real-world work, for a real world audience, in a way that’s relevant to students.”

Click on the video below to watch the full interview with Principal Jeff Bush.

Technology Integration

Classrooms are also integrating technology in everyday learning.

Sarah Wood is the technology and media integration specialist at Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.

She works with teachers to utilize technology and STEAM in classrooms, which includes coding.

“They’re using the coding to help them understand concepts in math, numbers and patterns and things like that,” Wood said.

It begins at the elementary level.

“It might be very simplistic on the coding level for elementary, and using some of the coding bots and things like that," Wood said. “But at the high school level, they might actually be working on designing their own video games or apps.”

She is also incorporating 3D printing in students' learning.

“I have examples of some finger puppets that I’ve created, that would be great for elementary students to do some story re-telling,” Wood said.

Learning does not let up when students leave.

“There's apps such as Raz-Kids for reading, that offers leveled books that the students are using in the classroom,” Wood said. “There are other apps such as XtraMath, which is either through an app form or through a website, where students can practice their math facts.”

To watch the full interview with Sarah Wood, click on the video below.

Conceptual Math

Teaching math has also transformed, it’s no longer just lectures and practice problems.

Tracy Krafft is a math teacher at Godwin Heights High School, and has taught the subject for a decade.

“The biggest thing for teaching math is getting at conceptual understanding,” Krafft said. “It’s just a little shift in thinking, it's not a huge new curriculum or task.”

Krafft said she is always working to give students an opportunity to engage with math, including hands-on activities, or through lessons she designs.

“Every year students come in with more and more critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, they're very creative in how they solve a problem,” Krafft said.

To watch the full interview with Tracy Krafft, click on the video below.

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