How do you help High School students receive lost credit for classes they missed because of CoVid?

This was the question PBL Innovators Denise and Jackie faced at the end of last year when CoVid was in its most contagious phase.

They had two choices.

Create study guides and offer make up tests, or take the innovative approach, and offer something more engaging, and meaningful. Hear from Denise herself to hear how she tackled the dilemma below:


Over the last five years, my teaching partner and I have been diving into project-based learning as we determined that integrated learning is what the kids in our setting need to thrive in our ever-changing world.  We work at an alternative high school where students were asking for something different than a conventional high school seven period day.  So, we searched out a way to integrate our subjects (History and English) to create an integrated, PBL model within our subject areas. Then, in March of 2020 our schools in Washington State shut down in person learning due to the COVID 19 pandemic.  School instantly went from in person learning to and online platform overnight and remained that way until January of 2021.  Teachers, students, administrators, parents, and the community rallied together to help students transform their living rooms and kitchens into makeshift classrooms. Even with the efforts to help students shift to the online platform many fell behind and ended the school year with “incomplete” credits and credit deficient to graduate.  Because of this our team went the drawing board to determine what we could do to help students retrieve credit that they missed last spring and even this last fall when our schools remained closed.

How can we learn to create and share by failing forward? 

As we came back to face to face learning we designed and launched a “Play to Learn” block of time where students sign up to take a competency-based project to retrieve credit lost during the pandemic.  In this block students first learned game design and principals to build 21st Century skills of thinking, creative problem solving, collaboration, empathy and innovation which folds into democratic ideals of citizenship.  Students took a competency-based test in subject areas that they needed to retrieve credit and then chose deep dives into standards to create, test and gather feedback on a game they created to demonstrate mastery of the standards.  They first tested their creations by demonstrating how to play the game to their peers; gathered feedback, made changes, and then presented the games to a group of fourth grade elementary school students.  Again, gathered more feedback, made changes and when they were completed, they partnered and released the games to the local YMCA for before and after school play thus making an impact in our community of younger learners.

The Transformation 

This process was transformative as it caused all of us; teachers, administrators, and students to think creatively on how credit is earned.  Game design is a perfect space to learn, grow and reflect and then repeat the process.  This process of game design inspired all of us to reframe failure.  Students learned in the design cycle that failure is part of the process of game design and even games that are on the market today have room for growth.  This block of credit retrieval was a safe fun way for our students to experience standards and content on a deep level by failing forward each day of the project.  The motto is to “learn, grow, reflect; repeat”.