The Orientation Project: Addressing Preventable Blindness in the US

This past week, students completed their very first project: the Orientation Project.

Our program is an inquiry-based learning environment. Students choose what they want to learn, and our educators focus on scaffolding projects around those interests and guiding them towards completion and mastery. Every project is first outlined with a guiding question/challenge statement, timeline, deliverables, learning process, and content.

In Orientation, to help students understand how project-based learning works in our program, they are tasked with a simple group project with a pre-selected guiding question.

The first group project prompt for our inaugural cohort of students:

50,000 people in the US become blind every year. Half of all blindness is avoidable. Assume you are a non-profit that has just been given a $5,000,000 grant from the government. How would you best deploy this capital to make the most sustainable, effective impact on this problem?

The students broke into groups. Each group tackled the problem from different angles, with a variety of solutions and perspectives. In each group, the students conducted research into the causes and science behind those diseases and conditions, followed by a proposed solution based on their analysis and the expected costs.

One group suggested the idea of building eyewear dispensaries and places for people to have eye exams more conveniently. Their position was that people simply didn’t have access, and through their solution they could address the issue of avoidable blindness most directly.

Another group suggested that they simply partner with an existing organization, Standard Process, to provide more people with access to supplements that would prevent them from contracting dietary-related blindness.

Every group presented their solutions at the end of Orientation in 5 to 7 minutes each. For this project, we also had a special guest listening to the presentations in Dr. Aaron Enten, CEO of Insight Optics, a technology company dedicated to solving the issue of avoidable blindness.

Overall, the students performed well. They conducted sound research, made logical assumptions, created proposals for addressing the problem in the prompt, and backed their solutions.

In the future, having learned the process behind project-based learning at Sora, students will begin their own mix of individual and group projects based on their interests. Already, our students have indicated interest in game development, rocketry, and nutrition/health!

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