The value of PBL

In a world where knowledge is growing at a rapid pace, tomorrow’s leaders need to be experts at using available information rather than merely memorizing facts. The Expert Thinking Model teaches children to integrate skills, apply knowledge, and work in teams to solve real-world problems.


Dan Ohl, middle school math

“It drives the kids crazy,” says middle school teacher Dan Ohl with a wicked grin, when speaking of project-based learning (PBL). This longtime faculty member, who recently completed the Friends Council on Education’s two-year leadership development program, embraces PBL in his classroom. “PBL asks students to use classroom skills to solve real-world questions,” he explains. Students don’t receive an assignment; they design it. “At first, they want me to tell them what to do,” he laughs, “but before they know it, they find they like building the process, and they’re even prouder of the result.”

When it was time to introduce the Pythagorean Theorem, Dan withheld the well-known formula (a2+b2=c2), instead challenging students to discover it on their own.  They could use any resource, with one exception: a teacher could not ‘teach’ them.  Students raced to the Three Oaks Woodshop; others searched online woodworking forums. One phoned an uncle who worked construction and before long was explaining the time-tested carpenter’s ‘3-4-5’ rule to her peers. Using their new knowledge, students were soon creating right angles on the floor with lengths of wood.  The resulting discussion of Pythagorean primitive triples held deeper and more lasting understanding for each individual.

“With PBL, students stretch outside their comfort zone and wrestle with difficult questions with no clear answers,” Dan says. “I’m inspired by the skills and confidence they gain.”



The Sailing & Marine Education Center will provide a waterfront classroom for marine and maritime education, a home for the school’s championship sailing team, and consistent support for the MB TRIPs initiative.

With anchorage for Friendship (a 36’ Union Cutter sailboat donated to the school by Dean Woodman ’46) and a classroom suitable for biology, environmental science, and maritime history, art, and literature, this satellite facility will expand opportunities for transformational travel and exploration on Narragansett Bay.

Reflection by Henry Todesco-Perkins ’15


Henry Todesco-Perkins ’15, first mate on the Friendship, four-year sailing team member

“For two years I participated in the summer camp program on the S/V Friendship, Moses Brown’s 36’ Union Cutter. With Captain Casey Charkowick, I spent many hours maintaining the ship and helping to run the program. It was a great experience for me, and I think MB should have a long-term program – even expand its fleet.

This experience is unique and contributes to all students’ knowledge of the Bay. Kids from MB and other schools who sailed on the Friendship appreciated being able to learn about the Bay up close. It was a unique experience – one you could only find at MB.

As a marine biology student, I support any marine education program. It’s critical to understand the Bay, both historically and in its present condition, and to understand the ocean and ecology that makes up so much of our state. Narragansett Bay is a very important part of Rhode Island and has so much to do with the founding and history of MB itself. Students need to understand what the Bay provides.

MB’s sailing team helped me appreciate the Bay, and taking MB’s Marine Biology elective and working on the Friendship taught me so much, beyond science and sailing to life lessons about how to lead and when to follow. All of that put me on a path to Maine Maritime Academy and a life on the water.”

RI food industry “more than just a meal”

ChezInnovation-FarmFresh - 20.jpgBy Francess K., camper

My initial thoughts about the food industry were narrow in the sense that I only imagined selling food in a store or restaurant. Chez Innovation not only changed my idea, but gave me a greater sense of appreciation for the business. We first visited Hope and Main, in Warren Rhode Island, where we met small business owners and learned about the economies of scale of farmer’s markets. Even with the glamorous kitchens, catchy slogans, and superb products, what intrigued me the most was the story behind each company. I found that it was more valuable to hear the stories of the people who had initiated change because they identified an issue that was dear to them. For example, a woman whose son needed to lose weight decided to make very healthy cookies and still managed to make them taste delicious. As I walked from booth to booth, I found myself leaving each and every one of them with a sense of understanding and connection.

On day two of the camp we were fortunate enough to visit Baffoni’s Chicken Farm. I had expected a simple farm model. However, we were presented with a complex business model that depended heavily on the thorough maintenance of the products and the facilities being used.  Even though bringing the product to market isn’t automated, relying on the work of pluckers and butchers, Baffoni follows strict protocols for food safety. At Daniele we were able to see first hand the technology that produces the meat products. In contrast to the small operation at Baffoni, Daniele was a huge, automated plant run by people but also robots made by Ferrari.  It was an example of how American ingenuity continues to inspire confidence in the economy. Our next stop of the day was at Farm Fresh Rhode Island, where we were given a tour of the multifaceted non-profit organization that delivers fresh produce to citizens and gives small businesses an opportunity to showcase their products. Their business model is in fact quite similar to my group’s original pitch. With refinement we were able to use knowledge that we acquired in various business class sessions to develop an idea for an event planning service that promotes small businesses and makes cultural connections across Rhode Island. Chez Innovation has inspired me to think of the industry as “more than just a meal,” as Amos House articulates in their mission.