The Trend of Project-Based Learning

It was during my first year of high school that I had heard of the word catalyst.

I remember the initial confusion that quickly engulfed my ignorant, freshman mind. Catalyst? I didn’t have the slightest idea as to what it had meant. Of course, it’s hard for me now to ever picture a universe without Catalyst, and the entire concept that it brings.After all, project-based learning wasn’t entirely an alien concept to me.

More than a handful of my classes back in middle school had adapted our end-of-the-year assessments to a project that, while weighed the same, spanned over a few months. Now, however, the Middle School Development Team, has proposed a new alternative–one that they believe will not only give students the opportunity to pursue their own interests but to also execute it during school hours.  Introducing: TRi Time.

Imagine, Investigate, Iterate.

These are the three new I’s of project-based learning. Developed almost five years ago by the middle school R & D process, the concept of TRi Time (try time) had emerged out of countless touring of schools in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to find what exactly made those schools excellent. A simple answer was deduced: independent inquiry projects.

The trend of project-based learning calls in to question what the real benefits of it are, in contrast to traditional, by-the-book learning. Image source

SAS has always praised itself for its brilliance in academic innovation, with examples such as Catalyst, Quest, and now TRi Time proudly joins that list.

So, what are the real benefits of project-based learning? Surely, the benefits must be extraordinary if SAS is devoting not one, not two, but three establishments to its cause.

Ms. Hall, the spokeswoman for TRi Time, shares her thoughts as she explains, “Research shows that students who learn through PBL (project-based learning) retain content knowledge longer, gain a deeper understanding of course material, develop stronger problem-solving skills, think more critically, and develop greater collaboration skills.”

It’s difficult to feature TRi Time without bringing up the High School equivalent of it: Catalyst. With such similar ideas, one has to wonder if TRi Time and Catalyst are somehow interconnected; however, both Mr. Hughes, the spokesperson of Catalyst, and Ms. Hall argue that TRi Time and Catalyst were developed separately and that they had little to no influence on the growth of one another. Mr. Hughes goes on to add some perspective on the school-wide movement towards personalized learning and the relationship between TRi Time and Catalyst by explaining, “I know a bit about the program, and have mentored [TRi Time] students in the past.”

The benefits of PBL are almost globally irrefutable.   Image source

Middle school students partaking in TRi Time share their thoughts on their new experience. “I think that it’s really great,” Raghav, an eighth grader, shares, “It’s a good break from the ordinary tests and assignments, and it gives us the opportunity to pursue what we’re interested in.”

Others confess that TRi Time gives them not only the opportunity but also the time and means of accomplishing things that they otherwise would have no space in their schedules for. Moreover, since TRi Time only takes up a small period of the school day, students are then pushed to find goals that are attainable; therefore, building up their skills with both goal-setting and goal-achieving.

Encouraging the pursuit of what truly interests students is the entire backbone of TRi Time, and although it is only, technically, a year in the making, its impact has already been felt by the middle school students.

An extremely talented eighth-grade student, Matu Harvey, has created a short documentary on TRi Time, detailing the inner workings of this program.  He has graciously allowed The Eye to present his documentary here:

Author: Anyu Ching

Anyu Ching is currently a senior in high school, and this is her third year as a reporter for The Eye. This year, she joins the staff as the Editor-in-Chief. Anyu was born in Singapore, but grew up in Tokyo, Japan, and spends most of her time flying back and forth between the two. Some of her hobbies include rewatching How I Met Your Mother for the seventh time, listening to The Strokes and rating coffees. Although she prefers phone calls, she can always be contacted at

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