Person Early College Sees Success with the Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global Program

PBI Global is an inquiry to action project, encouraging intellectual curiosity and problem-solving.

A collage of people on Zoom with the PBI Global logo in the middle
Students and teachers from Person Early College for Innovation & Leadership meet virtually during the 2021 session of PBI Global.

Globally relevant, action-oriented learning, like Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global, is a powerful tool to increase classroom engagement and help students understand the world in which they live. Today, Person Early College for Innovation and Leadership (PECIL) is engaged in their fourth year of collaboration with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation’s PBI Global team.

“We are thrilled that the teachers and students at PECIL are continuing to engage in PBI Global, even with the challenges that the pandemic has created,” said Hiller Spires, executive director of the Friday Institute, associate dean in the NC State College of Education and the project’s principal investigator. “Having the opportunity to engage teachers and students in STEM learning through PBI Global provides extraordinary opportunities for hands-on, minds-on learning in the classroom, as well as research insights for the academic community.”

This iteration of the project builds upon the success of “Supporting Students’ Science Content Knowledge through Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global,” which was executed by Spires; Erin Krupa, assistant professor of mathematics education in the College of Education and co-principal investigator; and Marie Himes, a research associate in the Friday Institute.

Spires has been working on PBI Global with schools around the world for well over a decade now. From 2020-2022, Spires and her team collaborated with educators and ninth grade students from Wake STEM Early College High School  (Wake STEM) and PECIL on an interdisciplinary project surrounding United Nations Sustainability Development Goal (SDG) Six – ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. The project was co-designed by the Friday Institute team and teachers from PECIL and Wake STEM to help students develop a greater understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of global water and sanitation challenges as well as how those challenges manifest differently across diverse locations, including North Carolina. 

As part of the project, students worked in cross-school teams to develop a compelling question (CQ) related to SDG Six, gathered and analyzed sources pertaining to their specific water and sanitation-focused CQ, developed claims and evidence, synthesized their findings into an argumentative essay and created multimodal products to share during a project showcase. 

The National Science Foundation-funded project was the first time the Friday Institute engaged in PBI Global with multiple schools collaborating in North Carolina, and as a result of the program’s success, it was recently featured in the Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) newsletter’s “Spotlight on Motivation & Engagement in STEM Education.”  

While the program has been groundbreaking for the Friday Institute research team, it has been equally impactful for its partner schools. Thanks in part to their innovative implementation of the PBI Global program, PECIL was recently recognized by Character.org as one of its “State Schools of Character.” Each year, Character.org certifies schools and districts at the state level that demonstrate a dedicated focus on character development, which has a positive effect on academic achievement, student behavior and school climate. 

“We’re grateful for our enduring partnership with the PBI Global team. This collaboration has supported our students to think more globally and about how they can contribute to a more sustainable world,” says Shirlrona Johnson, principal at PECIL. 

This year’s PBI Global Showcase will be held in person on April 1, 2022, at PECIL in Roxboro, North Carolina.

“We’re thankful for the successes of the PBI Global program at PECIL and Wake STEM and hope to continue to build upon this program at other schools, creating a network across the state and world,” Spires says.