Evidence is mounting that it’s possible to improve how students learn, both inside and outside the classroom. Campion, Mile High, and Vista Ridge academies and HMS Richards Elementary School recently received grants from Centura Adventist hospitals in Denver to implement a Project Based Learning program that promises to boost the learning curve at participating schools.

Project based learning

Project Based Learning is a fairly new teaching method that involves gaining knowledge through hands-on investigation and exploration of complex questions and challenges. Students tackle real-world problems, gaining skills that allow them to give back to their local communities.

The Centura hospitals sponsored leaders from each school to train at High Tech High, an integrated school network in San Diego known for its innovation in Project Based Learning. The trainees returned to Denver energized and excited to share their new-found passion for PBL.

Don Reeder, principal of Campion Academy, believes that PBL is consistent with Ellen White’s observation that “It is the work of true education … to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought” (Education, p. 17).

Any one of the myriad projects that have arisen from this innovative program is worthy of its own story, but space allows for only a few examples of how PBL is making a difference for Denver area students and their communities.


Pre-K through first graders at Mile High Academy are learning how to grow food in greenhouses and garden plots on the school campus. They provide produce to local food banks and Adventist Community Service centers for distribution to local families in need. Mile High’s harvest is bringing healthy food options to many families that would not otherwise benefit from a fresh-food diet.

Beating bullying

Fifth and sixth graders at Vista Ridge have been studying ways to eliminate bullying in the school environment. The students formulated and administered a survey aimed at quantifying how safe their fellow students felt at Vista Ridge. The survey results helped them identify areas for improvement. In turn, they developed some ingenious plans to help their fellow students build up and encourage each other, including passing out small rocks with encouraging inscriptions.

Health improvement 30-day challenges

Seventh and eighth graders at HMS Richards Elementary created 30-day health challenges for their friends and families. First, they encouraged people to switch to vegetarian or vegan fare for 30 days, providing participants with sample meal plans and recipes. Next, they challenged participants to complete a variety of daily exercise regimens, with an online link to track progress. Davin Hammond, principal of HMS, participated in both programs simultaneously, losing 12 pounds and improving his stamina in preparation for the recent BolderBoulder 10K Run.

Video documentaries

Jennifer Sigler, who teaches English at Campion Academy, helped her students produce short-form documentaries tackling timely social topics such as How Technology has Affected Our School, The Positive Effects of Missions on Families, and How to Beat Addictions. To complete the projects, the students had to learn and employ writing, interviewing, research, videography and editing skills. They showcased their documentaries at school during a special event and were thrilled when their work was warmly received by their peers.

“Our teachers and students are really excited to be engaging in new and exciting ways to learn that not only benefit our students, but hopefully also benefit our communities,” shares Toakase Vunileva, principal at Mile High Academy. “We’re so thankful that Centura has helped make this innovative dream a reality.”

This article was submitted by Stephen King, senior vice president for the Rocky Mountain Adventist Health/Centura Health, where he serves the five Adventist hospital campuses in Colorado. It was written by Mark Bond.