High Tech High

A New Kind of Learning Embraces a New Generation


Mr. Brandt, Mr. Mains, Mrs. Mack, Mrs. Reisz, Mrs. Faust, and Ms. Reibel in front of High Tech High School.

William Beddick, News Editor

At Greater Latrobe Senior High School, a new way of educating, commonly known as PBL, has begun in many classes. The biggest push for PBL has been through the field trip to High Tech High School in San Diego, California.

High Tech High was founded in 2000, averaging one hundred to one hundred-fifty students per grade level. It is the premiere school for the project based learning concept. The classes students can take at the school are very unique, because they combine courses like English and history into one. The singular project that the students create is the one takeaway from the co-curricular courses as a whole. To get into the school and participate in the PBL, elders put the name into the system and HTH picks those residing in San Diego County like a lottery. If your name is picked then you are able to join the student body.

As the students got a small chance to get accepted into this specialized school, the teachers only have a yearly contract that can be renewed by the administration for the upcoming year or they can be let go. In contrast to the pressure of yearly contracts, the environment of the school is left relaxed and open for students and teachers alike. Six representatives of GLSHS (Ms.Reibel, Mrs. Faust, Mrs. Mack, Mrs. Reisz, Mr. Brandt, and Mr. Mains) observed and experienced this unique culture.

“For the past two years, our administration has been talking about it and we have trained our seventh to twelfth grade staff in PBL during in service days here at the building,” Mr. Mains said. “Some small groups were sent by ASSET training to other areas, but most were trained at the school.”

“We must try to solve community problems and develop skills with our students that relate to real life.””

— Mr. Mains

One teacher in particular, Senora Reisz, has taken the opportunity of project-based learning and has been doing it in her Spanish III class this quarter. Students identified a problem in our society that they intend to change. For example, one class made culture boxes where they investigated different cultures like Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, and many others to identify the problem of our uneducated community.

High Tech High takes this project based learning like Senora Reisz has used in her class, but the unique charter school in California uses it for their overall curriculum. “All that High Tech High students do is one main project that they work on where they combine with other classes,” Reisz said. The students can work on their projects in no designed classroom, but in different areas around the school with whiteboards to help brainstorm their projects.

“At High Tech High, they called them Makerspaces,” Mr. Mains said. They have equipment like power drills, saws, and glue guns to help transform the students projects from dreams to realities. “It is a very non-traditional way of learning,” Mr. Mains stated.

The main focus for the projects are to initiate basic soft skills into the students’ minds and the process of the entire single project on its own. These projects also allow opportunities for students to pick personal job shadows or internships for one month. “Teachers will visit the students multiple times. The biggest takeaway is for the student to gain more experience,” Mains said.

At the school, GLSHS representatives had the opportunity to talk to some students at the school about their opinions. Reisz said, “The students were very friendly and open. They looked to be very used to guests at their school and were very helpful to talk to.”

In particular, Mains got to look into a ninth grade physics class where the students really showed their love for learning. “They were excited to tell me what they were learning and the passion really showed,” Mains said.

In the future, the GLSHS community looks forward to some co-curricular PBL classes next year, but in the meantime we won’t see any permanent recreation of HTH. The biggest obstacle is in Advanced Placement courses. “They have to cover so much that they have little time for the deeper dives of learning,” Mains said.

Personally, Reisz said, “Overall it was a good experience and few students were seeing what others were doing and that is something that we can apply here.”

As a school, Mains gave off two goals that we can take from this trip and try to accomplish in the near future. “We must try to solve community problems and develop skills with our students that relate to real life,” Mains said.

Even though a direct jump to a new education system takes time, you will definitely see little, baby steps to a different kind of learning in the future at Greater Latrobe Senior High School.