PAA Project-Based Learning Aims to Help Solve Water Crisis

January 06, 2017 | Liesl Vistaunet

Portland Adventist Academy teacher Frank Jin has a passion for science and a heart for mission.

Jin wants to see his students’ education being put to practical and meaningful use. So he challenged his freshman Physical Science students to study and create solutions for the millions of people in our world without easy access to clean water.

Jin’s approach to teaching is part of PAA’s efforts to further incorporate project-based learning (PBL) and mission-focused learning (MFL) throughout its academic program.

“PBL is exciting because students get to see the real-life importance of what they’re learning,” says Mechelle Peinado, PAA’s vice principal of academics. “We see them owning their education and bringing critical thinking to a deeper level. They are creatively approaching real-world challenges and working together to come up with meaningful solutions. And that’s exciting.”

You can see this excitement in the faces of four students who worked on a device they named the Wheel-Barrel. Not only did they drastically improve on the cost of similar water-rolling products, their prototype was also lightweight and easy to assemble and ship. The Wheel-Barrel also acts as its own container for all the moving parts.

The project was meaningful. “A device like ours would be useless if it didn’t help to alleviate the water crisis in some way,” the students shared in a presentation. “We designed the Wheel-Barrel to help mitigate spinal damage on women and children and to increase children’s education time. This product can bring relief and better life to those people who have to perform a painful and necessary task.”

Through projects such as these, MFL and PBL are experienced even if practical application is never guaranteed. Even so, Jin and his students want to see their hard work make a difference as they intended. The group who designed the Wheel-Barrel said even a small church could easily raise the money for several barrels and assemble them in an afternoon. They are sharing these projects with pastors, teachers and church members who could be planning future mission trips to countries with water-access issues.

“Mission Trip leaders or anyone interested in these solutions should contact me through PAA,” says Jin. “Ultimately, it would be our dream to see these projects used in mission fields.” To learn more, visit or 503-255-8372.

Click here to read PAA’s online story about this project. Learn more about PBL and  MFL. Check out the students' Wheel-Barrel presentions.