Even a pandemic can’t dampen the creative mind. Every challenge provides opportunities to innovate and learn in new and different ways. Knowing this truth, Bennett Labs, the learning innovation and development division at Bennett Day School, a PreK-12 independent school in Chicago’s West Town, launched Bennett Live, an app and portal filled with engaging, educational programming inspired by Bennett’s project-based learning model.
“Project-based learning is what we do at Bennett Day School, and now everyone can engage in this at home. Here are teachers in your pocket on an app and you can access experiences to make, create and do at home,” explains Kelly Page, Ph.D., creator of Bennett Live and director of Bennett Labs.
What is Bennett Live?
Created at the onset of the pandemic, Bennett Live brings engaging programming to kids ages 3-18, guided by pedagogical principles of Bennett Day School’s progressive learning and child development philosophy. “What’s great about Bennett Live is that it ignites joy and creativity in learning and inspires a growth mindset in young creators and designers,” Page says.
Bennett Live debuted on the school’s YouTube channel and Facebook page when the school first closed to provide projects for families to do at home — then expanded to its own social channels. “We wanted to demystify project-based learning and show how sometimes projects can be very small, like cooking or gardening. We wondered, how can we democratize this and make it accessible?” Page explains, adding that her team published 240 Bennett Live episodes over six months.
Today, Bennett Live is available two ways: through YouTube and Facebook (videos only) and through a subscription-based app that includes videos plus learning resources, guides, flip cards and project briefs, to provide information about project-based learning and emergent curricula to families, educators and schools.
“We are releasing new content and our vision is to grow this as a resource for families who focus on being creative and enjoy learning through projects and to ignite young people as designers,” Page says. Much like the learner-centered philosophy that begins in kindergarten at Bennett Day School, each video offers choices based on how the individual learner wants to engage.
How Bennett Live works
With an engaging format led by professional educators, Bennett Live draws kids in through Reggio Emilia-inspired creative and imaginative play and visual storytelling. Children can explore outdoor adventures, experiment and problem solve through design thinking. They can create games, explore photography and films, or discover architecture. Each program is multilayered and offers a choice for exploration and is listed by interest and age.
“Outdoor adventuring is a big hit and the instructor, Ms. Fairity, unpacks learning through kayaking. Participants learn the many ways to explore nature through water and can still do a project even if they can’t kayak,” Page says.
The value of project-based learning, Page explains, is the internal motivation it ignites. “There are always things we have to learn, so we build that math or science into something a learner might be interested in. Cooking involves math and science, as does movement and dance,” she says. “This philosophy recognizes that when we allow young people to follow their interests, the internal motivation kicks in. It’s a different way of learning for many parents.”
How to engage with Bennett Live
What family doesn’t have a list of projects to get done? Bennett Live can help create a “culture of doing projects,” Page says. “Set aside project days — like Saturdays — and work together in the house or garage. Younger children may need help cutting paper or getting materials, but older kids can work alongside parents and everyone is engaged in a project.”
Or, make it social. “One mom told us her son loves doing Active Play with Coach Carson, and her daughter loves doing what her brother does, so they are doing activities together and building a culture of project-based learning at home,” Page says. “We’ve seen this emerge for families.”