Project-Based Learning is Thriving at River Grove

Delivering essential standards-based curriculum in a way that connects with students
River Grove

Over the summer, River Grove’s Teaching Team has collaborated in depth to expand Project-Based Learning (“PBL”) at our K-6 charter school, located just outside Marine on St. Croix, MN. The enhanced educational platform is built around the concept that students learn by engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. 

Why PBL? 
Educators increasingly recognize that “the real world” — every kind of workplace, home, and even recreational setting — is filled with projects that require analysis and solution from many angles. Exposing kids to a multidisciplinary problem-solving process is a great motivator for elementary-age students, who thrive on hands-on activities. Simply put, PBL gets kids more involved in learning!

How is this PBL Program Perfectly Suited for River Grove? 
Building on existing plans, our teachers have designed a program for 2022-23 in which all students will take part in two large scale, age-appropriate group projects — one per semester. The projects will be centered around the concept of “Seasons of River Grove,” covering topics such as “The Winter Forest,” “The Sky Above,” “Growing Things,” “Our Town,” “Our River Grove Home,” and “Rivers and Dams.” Standards-based core curricula — earth and physical sciences, local history, math, reading and writing, music, and art — and are all incorporated into answering the “Big Questions” that are posed at the start of each project.

River Grove

Frequently during the school year, local community organizations and experts will come to campus to talk with students, or students will venture out on field trips to informative, pertinent sites such as the St. Croix River, museums, farms, or wildlife centers. Friday afternoons will be focused, uninterrupted blocks of time for students to focus on current projects.

Each student will work in groups, learning 21st century skills of collaboration, using important roles such as researcher, recorder, timekeeper, or materials manager. Students will also find time to work independently, bringing their contributions back to the group. River Grove’s philosophy of “PRIDE” will play center stage during the whole process:

  • Perseverance (have a growth mindset and don’t give up);
  • Respect (treat yourself, others, and your environment with kindness);
  • Integrity (do the right thing even when no one’s there);
  • Discovery (be curious!);
  • Excellence (always do YOUR best).

Ta-Da! Presenting a Showcase of Learning
Two River Grove school-wide celebrations will be held during the academic year for students to show products, share a publication, give performances, or do demonstrations.  We look forward to sharing our students’ successes with parents, families, and our community! Showcase dates will be announced after the start of the school year.

Take it Outside! Teaching Standards-Based Curriculum in Nature

River Grove continues to lead the local outdoor education movement by participating in a series of retreats to be held at Warner Nature Center, Marine on St. Croix.
Three retreats — led by teams from Hamline University, St. Catherine University, and the University of Minnesota — will advance skills in delivering standards-based curriculum in an outdoor setting.

Teaching Standards-Based Elementary Curriculum in Nature -- River Grove

Led by a team of researchers, teacher educators, scientists, and education advocates (representing Hamline University’s School of Education and Leadership, Freshwater, and the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment), River Grove’s K-6 teachers will join other educators from around the region in a professional development opportunity that will benefit students, teachers, and administrations.

Beginning in late summer 2022, the three immersive “teacher field school” retreats will be held at Warner Nature Center in Marine on St. Croix, MN. Nature right outside our doors gives educators opportunities that are not found inside a classroom. It is well documented that outdoor education for children leads to approaching topics with more curiosity, helping students advance as learners with life-long skill sets. Working as a team during the seminars, teachers and school leaders will investigate how to align existing curriculum to nature-based teaching practices.

Specific topics will include:

Teaching Standards-Based Elementary Curriculum in Nature -- River Grove
  • Meeting academic standards
  • Deepening an understanding of multidisciplinary teaching
  • Grounding work in equity-oriented approaches
  • Gaining practice in creating high-impact, nature-based lessons and activities

At the retreats, teachers will draw from existing curriculum and lessons. They will learn strategies for using nature as a context to deepen engagement, fully explore any content subject, and gain practice in multidisciplinary instruction to increase academic engagement to improve student outcomes. The teachers will set individual and team goals, and they will make plans to share their learning with colleagues.

The goal is to equip teachers with tools, skills, and the confidence to use whatever context and natural setting available to them to deepen students’ engagement in any subject. This work will rejuvenate and revitalize the teachers’ passion for teaching by providing professional development based in River Grove’s mission and vision.

Since the school’s inception, River Grove has been making use of the many 900-acre Wilder Forest amenities to take kids outside for learning. Our teachers are excited to put the retreat’s innovations into practice and continue to lead the local outdoor project-based education movement.

Current 2022-23 COVID Info

Updated July 27, 2022
This info may be updated frequently.

Dear River Grove Community,

Throughout the COVID pandemic, River Grove’s COVID Task Force has carefully considered recommendations and requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Minnesota Departments of Health and Education. Putting the health and safety of our students, staff, families, and community has been our number one priority and concern. As we have done throughout, River Grove will continue to implement these recommendations as best fit the conditions of our school and continue to use them as a baseline towards our policy.

Thank you,

The COVID Response Team     


Links to the Minnesota Department of Health



Board News July 2022

Monthly Friday Teacher Collaboration Periods Approved by the School Board Our teaching staff has committed to some very exciting initiatives for this coming school year, including school-wide thematic curriculum mapping, monthly field trips and/or community expert connections, and community service projects. We plan to host two school-wide celebrations of learning…

Continue reading