I am so psyched about the project-based schools that are doing some really wonderful things for students in the Twin Cities. So far I have visited five of these schools, and I've been consistently impressed with the intelligence and collegiality of the staff, the high-level work and maturity of the students, and the general positive vibe at these schools.
Here's how it works: students enroll in the school (often after being unhappy or unsuccessful at a more traditional school) and are assigned an advisor. The advisor works with that student to come up with a "personalized learning plan" for how they're going to meet all the requirements for graduation. To meet those requirements, students must complete a certain number of projects that tie into specific standards and/or attend faculty-led "seminars," which are also project-based.
On a typical day, a student might come in, check in with her advisor, and then make herself a schedule for the day to indepedently work on her projects. Many of these schools also have required, structured math classes to make sure that students can pass the graduation test.
At a school I visited yesterday, one of the projects students had initiated and implemented was creating a student-run library. Global warming also seemed to be a common theme for projects this year.