Last week, I had the fantastic opportunity to serve as a judge for our Right of Passages Experiences or ROPES program.   The ROPES program encourages students in 4th, 6th or 8th grade to explore through project based learning outside of the regular classroom environment.   Students can work individually or in a team on projects in a number of areas including creativity/appreciation of the arts, adventure/personal challenge, and service/advocacy.   

This year we had nearly 300 projects and almost 400 students participate!  On the night that I helped judge, I heard about a number of projects that students worked on over the past couple of months.   I heard from two brothers who built their own clay brick pizza oven out of used materials, and from one student who loves to cook and developed his own chocolate creations while learning about the process of making chocolate.   I was struck that in both of these projects the students failed multiple times, but learned from their mistakes and ultimately succeeded.   This is an important life skill to learn and one that will serve them later in life.   

A third project that evening was from three 6th grade students who spent time at the Kainos Home & Training Center for adults with developmental disabilities.  The students spent several days with the residents of Kainos sharing meals, going to the mall, and spending time together.  The students will continue to volunteer at Kainos.  They named their project, “They are Just Like Us” and the students came away with a greater respect and understanding of people with developmental disabilities.  

ROPES is a great program that we offer to students in the San Carlos School District.  It provides a powerful learning experience for our students, many of whom told me they wished for my project based learning opportunities.    As we look at what 21st century learning is for our district, programs like ROPES can serve as a foundation.  

This year our ROPES program was recognized as one of the top education programs in San Mateo county and we will receive a prestigious Kent award next month as recognition of the success of this innovative program.