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Building Project-Based Learning(PBL) Communities of Practice

Provide teachers community assessment and facilitation skills to identify and train a network of refugees as para-educators in PBL.

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Teachers are one of the greatest assets to a community: helping to connect children with the knowledge, skills and thinking needed to solve problems. Teachers also play a vital role developing relationships between their students and parents. This project would capitalize on the teachers position in the community to identify, assess, recruit and train parents, adults and older students as para-educators and partners in the learning process; leveraging untapped skill-sets available among residents of refugee camps and resettlement communities. This project would provide a scalable train-the-trainer model for increasing education capacity through a higher teacher to student ratios, peer support and community buy-in for in and out of school and homeschool programs. The education model that we would work with is a project-based learning approach. The PBL model is ideal for incorporating knowledge from various skill sets and training lay people who have minimal skills in traditional pedagogical approaches. It provides room for lay people to become experts relying on facilitation of problem solving rather than being content specialists in math, language, science or social studies.


The benefits of the program would extend to three user groups: teachers working in refugee camps or resettlement communities, refugees with leveragable skill sets and students. Teachers would gain support in the classroom and expand expertise. Refugees would apply their skills in meaningful ways and advance their teaching abilities as well as their literacy and mathematic skills. Students would have higher instructor to student ratios and exposed to new problem solving skills.


Our company, CREATOMbuilder, Inc. has focused on the train-the-trainer model in PBL by developing frameworks for project facilitation and techniques for incorporating curriculum standards into classroom projects. A framework delivery model, as compared to a top-down curriculum delivery model, allows for projects to be place-based: leveraging refugee camp’s location and context along with refugee’s skills sets. Pilot Project: Prep prior to arrival at location: Identify education and community service NGO’s to connect with target communities. Week 1: identify 6 teachers (T's) and 12 skilled para-educators(PE's) who demonstrate leadership and community networking skills currently working or living in refugee camps, identify and visit home/out of school sites and assess adults for skills and interest and locations for training centers. Identify 5 leaders who will act as project coordinators in the community. Weeks 2 & 3: Provide intensive workshops with T's and PE's on PBL community of practice framework and set up training centers in the local school and one in the local community. Assess curriculum and skill sets to develop monthly project and training schedule including T's & PE’s demonstrating their skills that will be aligned to curriculum for PBL activities. Weekly PE's teaching schedules set. Week 4: T's and PE’s will work together to conduct first project in classroom and meet following week to discuss. Leaders will meet with T's and PE's 2 x/month in their class.


We have seen first-hand the power of train-the-trainer programs for their scalability and sustainability. We have primarily worked with after-school teachers (both professional teachers and para-educators) in rural India with the non-profit Communities Rising, Inc. and with elementary school teachers in Atlanta through an NSF grant. We are seeking feedback from the IRC affiliate in Atlanta, through our contacts at Georgia State University and those working in the resettlement community of Clarkston, GA on professional development resources and realities of working with the refugee community. We have discussed this project with members of Georgia State University who have worked with the Clarkston, GA resettlement community, the director of Communities Rising in India and past residents of Dadab Refugee camp in Kenya. What we have learned is the following: That these communities will set up small in-home schools, of up to 10-15 children, due to over crowding issues in the UNICEF or UNHCR schools where teacher to student ratios can be as high as 1:160 students, safety concerns especially for girls, and the need to have children help with basic needs of daily survival. Through bringing these smaller in-home schools together with traditional teachers they can have better access to the mandated curriculum and increase their skills as teachers and teaching assistants providing better access to education to their children.


Working in the refugee context provides unique challenges that would fundamentally change the way we conduct this program and develop place-based structures to meet community needs and limitations. Although we have experience providing training to professional teachers, this program is differentiated by developing professional development structures for non-professional teachers who have different priorities and goals such as survival, environment, food and water, energy, safety, physical and mental health and hygiene. These topics would drive PBL curriculum development and training.


Funding will be required for 1. Prep and bringing team of 3 PBL training specialist to the site for 3 times during the first 18 months...$50,000 2. Purchase of any PBL activity materials for 3 years= $6000 3. Salary for 5 program leaders for 3 years...$1000/leader = $15,000 4. Food for 3 years of monthly training sessions for 36 sessions... $10,000 5. Technology(tablets or smartphones, printers for 5 program leaders...$5000 6. Setting up PBL Community of Practice (CofP) guide and web interface for multiple languages for print and web ...$5000 7. Work with Design Support to refine assessment & run simulations of the PBL CofP training sessions with PBL specialist team and get feedback.


This proposal provides a place-based model for engagement and assessment of skills for potential para-educators for creating PBL communities of practice. Through the initial assessment phase we will work with existing schools, NGO's and communitiy leaders to identify people as lead trainers and facilitators and potential para-educators who are skilled laborers, cultural leaders and those running existing in-home informal schools. We would leverage resources, community issues and mandated curriculum for the developmemt of PBL projects providing a learning experience which is culturally specific and sensitive.


Each refugee community works with a mandated curriculum which includes mathematics, language arts and literacy, science and some form of social or cultural studies indexed to developmental stages. The unique challenge is that not all children are able to meet their developmental level. We would coach trainers in an education standards mapping approach that leverages community issues identified in the assessment as the basis of projects. Incentives for the lead trainers and program liasons would be to provide a supplemental salary for running the program in the pilot region. Incentives for the para-educators/teaching-assistants trainees includes a community support network and sense of purpose and monthly training sessions that provide lunch and project worksheets and teaching props. New trainers would hear about the program through visits to schools by program leaders. Future para-educators would learn of the program through conducting the community skills and resources assessment. Two types of training centers would be identified:1 the school-based training center and 2. the in-home/neighborhood-based training center. These training centers would work collaboratively to conduct PBL training for both educational environments and serve as a resource and gathering center. This proposal creates a scaleable structure and process to implement para-educator programs tailored to localized contexts.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

This 1 month pilot would require a core group of teacher-leaders with the assistance of translators and educators affiliated with organizations like the IRC, UNHCR or Questscope. We would tap these organizations’ teacher professional development programs to implement the community assessment and PBL teacher/para-educator training. I would provide my skills as a education design facilitator and consultant as well as access to our platform to train and follow up with the targeted community


I'm a design educator, entrepreneur and PBL consultant. I've conducted PBL teacher training in India on a Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship and work with schools and maker spaces in Atlanta, GA. I help to bring design thinking to the learning process; developing meaninful projects for the classroom.


  • Yes, and I am looking for a partner working with refugee communities to implement this idea.


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Hi Kathleen,

Another comment from one of our experts! If you could please spend some time responding to their comment that would be great.

"Could you please explain this is less technical terms? Also, how is this different than existing approaches?"


The Amplify Team

Photo of Kathleen Fritz

Amplify Team,
How this proposal is different than para-educator or teaching assistant training is that we are looking to assess the skills of the community and create project based curriculum that incorporates the community skills along with the mandated curriculum. We are providing a process for leveraging the existing curriculum not just handing a curriculum over to the community.

As for describing it in less technical terms, I'm not sure if they are responding to the whole proposal or just a part of it? It would be helpful for us if the expert could be more specific about what they are looking for, but let me know if this elevator pitch helps:

We are working with local leaders, NGO's and teachers in refugee communities to locate, assess the skills of, and train a network of adult residents to become teaching assistants for both the formal classroom and smaller independent homeschools. This team of teaching assistants will lend their skills (such as cooking, sewing, storytelling, woodworking, construction, merchants, bookkeeping etc.) as teaching opportunities for projects that are aligned with the mandated curriculum.

An example would be the mandated curriculum says that you need to learn measurments for math skills. We could develop a project based on construction and have the teaching assistant provide a workshop during the monthly para-educator training sessions to the other teachers on how to do measurments when building a small structure such as a table or bench. Using materials found in the camp, each class would build a small structure that is needed in their classroom or in their home. Students would apply measuring and basic math skills from the mandated curriculum during the project. Other para-educators would receive new valuable skills. By the end of the year at least 12 project modules would be created that could be replicated to other neighborhoods or districts in the refugee camps.

I hope this helps -please let me know.

Photo of AMPLIFY Team

Hi Kathy,

This is really helpful, thank you! While our expert didn't elaborate on which part they wanted more details on, this certainly helps us get a sense of what you are planning! Cheers!

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