Just about anyone who has ever been a teenager will remember wondering during a boring lecture in school what the practical application of that lesson might be. Or, as the question is more commonly phrased, "Why do I need to learn this stuff anyway?"
That question is answered well by project-based learning, which is picking up steam across the nation.
Gary New Tech High School offers the same promise as its counterpart at Calumet High School.
Now in its second year under the New Tech banner, the school focuses on integrated use of technology in the classroom and on project-based learning. In other words, it's preparing students for the workplace.
The school, housed at Gary Roosevelt last year and now at the Gary Area Career Center, serves more than 160 students in grades nine and 10.
"We've learned how to make movies and prepare for the real world," sophomore Patrice Ezell, 16, said recently. "We prepared a digital story. We also put together a project where we used the metric system."
With project-based learning, students understand better how they might use new skills and knowledge in the future. That teaches the habits they'll need in the future, everything from showing up on time to teamwork to self-motivation to becoming adept with technology.
These are skills tomorrow's employers will be looking for.
Preparing students for college is still important, of course, but not every student who need a four-year degree. Every student, however, will need to know how to succeed in their jobs and careers beyond high school.
That's the value of schools like Gary New Tech and Calumet that are leading students to apply new knowledge even as they are taught what the state wants all high school students to learn.
Project-based learning, along with integrated use of technology in the classroom, holds promise for creating the workforce of tomorrow.