Students facilitate learning through new program at Mazzuchelli Catholic Middle School

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Mazzuchelli Catholic Middle School in Dubuque is trying out a new program this year with a group of sixth graders.

A Mazzuchelli sixth grader works on a science project on Wednesday, September 13, 2017.

It's called EDGE, which stands for Engage, Discern, Grow, Excel.

Twenty five students are enrolled in the program.

Their teacher, Kayti Frank, teaches them skills as a group, like how to take notes, or how to look things up on the Internet.

The students then have what they call Personal Learning Time, or PLT. In that time, they teach themselves the content. This way, they're able to work at their own pace and take content assessments when they feel ready.

The students then will come together and work on projects to apply the content and skills they learned.

On Wednesday, the students were working on applying their knowledge about the scientific method to various projects.

One group worked on a 'mystery box,' which they poured water into. They observed how the water would come out different colors at the bottom of the box, and made hypothesis's as to why.

Gracie Leibfried enjoyed the activity, saying, "I really like it. It helps me like understand things better and go at my pace because I don’t like to be rushed or else I will get confused."

Nearby, student Grace Schroeder was working on the mystery bags.

She's holding brown paper bags and trying to feel what's inside.

"I'm feeling what's inside of it so I can make a guess on what it is," Schroeder said.

If anyone walked by the classroom, they would notice there's little teacher instruction, and that's Frank's goal.

She said, "never just give them the answer, you question them and have them find out the answer on their own, make them an independent, self-directed learner."

The students use their laptops, each other and project time to determine their pace and find answers on their own.

"They're on their computer and they get to choose, 'maybe I want to work on science today, maybe I want to work on math,' and they get to go at their own pace."

This program also places an emphasis on goal-setting.

At the beginning of each day, students set goals for themselves.

At the end of the day, they evaluate their progress.

"They'll go, 'okay how well did I achieve my goal? What were my strengths, what were my weaknesses?' So it's a lot about setting goals and reflection so that when they get out into the college world and the work world they can set goals for themselves on a daily basis."

The class will soon be getting a new classroom to accommodate this program.

It'll have cubicles for each of the kids, as well as soft seating and long work tables.

The school plans to begin a freshmen year class next year.

This current sixth grade class will continue the program until they graduate.

Frank is confident for the future of this program, saying, “I honestly think this is gonna be school in 20 to 30 years.”

Mazzuchelli is the first school in the state of Iowa to begin this program, and one of 300 schools across the country that has it.

To learn more about this program,

visit Holy Family's website.