Prepping for John Hunter: Reflections on Aspirations of PBL at Hillside School

On January 21st Hillside is fortunate to welcome John Hunter, legendary educator and leader, to speak to our Faculty and extended community. I heard John speak at NAIS last March and then again at the Martin Institute over the summer and found him both inspiring and visionary. I am including here a note I just sent to Faculty in an effort to frame our Master Class with John and ensure we all get the most out of our time with him. I hope to update a few more blog posts inspired by our work with him in the near future. John’s evening talk at Hillside will also be open to educators who are interested to attend. If you live nearby, let me know if you want to visit and I’ll save you a seat!


Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to provide a few resources for our upcoming Master Class with John Hunter on January 21st. As you know, this day promises to be both engaging and enlightening. I hope you will review the included documents, some new and some review, surrounding PBL. Please reflect on the following questions as John will work with us to address them, and myriad others, during our time together. I hope these guiding questions and articles get you excited and thinking about our time with John, and our important work with PBL, both now and in the years ahead.



Guiding Questions


  • What is our understanding of the value of PBL at Hillside?
  • What roadblocks, real or perceived, stand in the way of PBL at Hillside?
  • Do we collaborate across subject areas in a way that produces authentic interdisciplinary study?
  • How are YOU using PBL in your classes? What has worked and what have you learned from your failures?
  • What more can we do to cultivate empathy in our students?

Articles and Videos for Review

If you have not yet seen it, please watch John Hunter’s TED Talk

Project Based Learning Resources: Some of these are review, and some are new. All are worth a close look!

Parameters of PBL

Article Outlining Differences Between Projects and PBL

What Project Based Learning Isn’t

What Project Based Learning IS


Twitter: No Excuse DIY P.D.

I recently returned from an excellent TABS ( The Association of Boarding Schools) conference where Courtney and I presented Health Services Management: A Model for Small Independent Schools. As always, I left TABS feeling inspired, invigorated  and more connected to the vast network of Boarding School educators out there. Face to face conferences are wonderful opportunities to better connect and share with those who work in our unique industry. They are reminders of how much more we have to learn, and how many excellent schools are out there leading change initiatives at this pivotal time. I enjoyed meeting and spending time with too many people to properly shout out to all of them here, but i do want to say thank you to all who inspired me and made the weekend meaningful. 

If I have one criticism of the conference it is that I am surprised by how little social media engagement I found there. I expected that more of our colleagues would share their opinions, experience, and perspective via the hashtag #tabs12. While TABS did a good job of setting the stage for this level of engagement, it was the attendees who were less active. In fact, when you search #tabs12, you’ll find a few heavy users and not much more. I hope that things like the initiative to create #tabschat, a boarding school centered Twitter chat which resulted from the collaboration of Scott MacClintic (@Smacclintic) and others, will help more boarding school educators understand and harness the use of Twitter for both connecting with each other and for ongoing PD.

To steal a quote from Dan Love (@danielwlove) and Hans Mundahl’s (@hmundahl) presentation on innovation in schools, Twitter is  a key element to “DIY PD.” I could not agree more and am happy to say that Hillside School Faculty understand and use Twitter to share and learn on a regular basis and in a self directed way.

If you doubt me about the efficacy of Twitter to create both engagement with boarding school and education specific topics, take the 3 minute challenge. Go to Twitter and search out a hashtag in your subject specific area. I guarantee you’ll find amazing resources that will provoke your thinking, inspire you to learn more, or even reinforce something you already believe. Give it a try and I know you will not be disappointed!

I hope to see you on #tabschat on Wed. and that the traffic on #TABS13 will be even more robust!