Milton Hershey School Incorporates Student Voice in the Classroom Through Problem-Based Learning Opportunities during 2016-17 School Year

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Students at all grade levels complete open-ended lessons that promote student voice

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“At MHS, teachers don’t identify specific STEM kids. We’ve made a commitment to saying all kids are capable of being STEM students,” said Dr. Jaunine Fouché, science curriculum supervisor at MHS..

As part of Milton Hershey School’s® 2020 Vision strategic plan, all students at the pre-K through 12th grade school for lower income children receive problem-based learning opportunities during the 2016-17 academic school year. MHS teachers combine the school’s standardized academic curriculum with open-ended challenges that align with 21st century skills.

“We’ve gotten more committed to standardized curriculum, which is wonderful because it allows students to proceed to the next grade level with a particular set of knowledge and skills,” explained Dr. Jaunine Fouché, science curriculum supervisor at MHS. “The downside of [standardized curriculum] is that it doesn’t allow for student voice and student choice.”

To give students freedom in the classroom, the problem-based learning opportunities at MHS must have open-ended challenges. Students choose how they’re going to solve a problem and articulate how they’re going to do it, increasing student voice and student choice.

Open-ended lessons include virtual reality exercises, a hands-on Innovation Lab for elementary students, and an Agriculture and Environmental Education Program that supports entrepreneurial instruction such as Project Market—a seasonal student-run produce stand that highlights the importance of product development and marketing.

“How do we prepare students for the unknown, ever-changing workforce? We allow them the flexibility to apply what they know and show what they can do in novel ways that are meaningful to them. They [become] projects of the heart,” said Fouché.

Through meaningful projects that encourage independence and self-expression, students develop skills such as empathy, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. Teachers also receive in-depth professional development training and discover how to best support students using an open-ended approach to STEM education.

“At MHS, teachers don’t identify specific STEM kids. We’ve made a commitment to saying all kids are capable of being STEM students,” said Fouché. “All students should have the opportunity to be exposed to this curriculum multiple times throughout their educational career at MHS.”

More information about the school’s commitment to student voice and problem-based learning can be found at

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Milton Hershey School® is one of the world’s best private schools, offering a top-notch education and positive home life to children in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade from families of lower income at no charge.

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Keri Straub