Holy Family Academy was recently highlighted in two articles about student-centered learning and project based learning by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is a nonprofit organization that serves educators interested in better use of technology in education. ISTE serves more than 100,000 education stakeholders throughout the world through individual and organizational membership and support services. HFA uses the ISTE Standards that provide a framework for rethinking education, adapting to a constantly changing technological landscape and preparing students to enter an increasingly global economy.
"How PBL transforms students into digital citizen," describes the rigorous real-world learning happening at HFA:
At Holy Family Academy, a student-centered Catholic high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, teens explore the social justice issues affecting their underserved communities using each classroom subject as a different lens. Not only are students encouraged to openly discuss controversial topics, such as racial hatred and police brutality, but they’re given free reign to devise their own driving questions for project-based learning.
“They could read about it in book, or we can give students the space and time to create a program or project,” says Lisa Abel-Palmieri, head of school and chief learning officer. “This way, they’re working on projects they’re passionate about while learning the core subjects.”
The most powerful projects often stem from problems or struggles students are facing in their own lives. As they start researching potential solutions and discovering that other people share their struggles, they develop empathy along with the realization that the answers to their own problems can also be helpful to others.
The second article, "How students become influencers and advocates," describes how we tackle social justice:
Teachers aren’t afraid to tackle controversial topics at Holy Family Academy in Pittsburgh, Pa., where most students come from disadvantaged communities. Students routinely discuss issues such as hatred, white privilege, police brutality and racial identity.
“In most schools, people are afraid of controversy, but we definitely don’t shy away from these topics,” says Lisa Abel-Palmieri, head of school and chief learning officer. “When you give students the space and time to talk about social justice, that’s where the sweet stuff happens. That’s where change can happen.
“We want our students to be part of the change and have the confidence to speak out in the face of injustice.”