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Classroom Spotlight: Marcy Blowers uses project-based learning for ZQuest students

Holland Sentinel.  September 24, 2016

By Erin. Dietzer, (616) 546-4231 

Marcy Blowers had an unusual reason for wanting to go into teaching: Apart from a few good teachers, she didn't particularly enjoy her K-12 experience.

"I always liked the act of teaching, and I wanted to help other people have a better experience in their education than I did," Blowers said.

Blowers is now in her fifth year of giving students a good experience. She teaches seventh and eighth grade at Zeeland Public's ZQuest, a K-8 school that operates on a balanced calendar and in multi-aged groupings. Blowers joined the school in its first year right after graduating from Hope College with a degree in elementary education and special education.

"It was a bit intimidating to join a new school as a new teacher, but I love it here," she said. "I love that I can be flexible, and do what I need to do."

Her passion is project-based learning, a curriculum staple at ZQuest. Project-based learning frames the required content students have to learn in a real-world problem, requiring students to do a lot of research and investigation.

Sometimes the project prompts get fun. Right now, Blowers' class project, an intro to a geography unit, is that they are the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. The layout of the world changed due to the virus, and students now have to figure out how and where to resettle the world for survivors.

Most of the time they're based in more realistic scenarios. They've tackled erosion problems at Grand Valley State University. For a math unit, they collected and dissected data to see if a Chipotle in Holland was possible and desirable.

The class ended up sending their results to Chipotle's corporate headquarters. They got a letter back, thanking them and telling them their data would be sent on to the real estate team.

"We don't know if we're part of the reason a Chipotle is going in at the mall now," Blowers said with a laugh. "But we like to think so."

Just getting the response from Chipotle and being able to present their erosion work at GVSU was enough for Blowers.

"The main thing is getting that real-life application for what they're learning," she said. "I think it helps when they know it's not just me who is going to see their work."

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