Project based learning is a great way to engage students in authentic learning. This post will look at the 3 different project based learning examples referenced below. The first example listed (Armstrong, 2002) describes a high school project in which geometry students create a school of the future. The second example referenced is about a third grade classroom’s project following the migration of monarch butterflies. The last example (Curtis, 2001) describes an elementary school’s experiences as they implement project based learning throughout the entire campus.
The three referenced examples of project based learning have several common design elements. Each example is centered around an essential question. The geometry students were creating a high school of the future for a specific piece of land while the third graders were documenting the migration paths of different animals. The elementary school classrooms picked a new topic each semester such as cystic fibrosis and the stock exchange. All three examples also showed specific plans for implementation, guiding activities and opportunities to present and share their work.
Teacher and student roles are an important part of project based learning. Project based learning is a great way to differentiate and appeal to the learning styles of all students. Students take the lead and direct their own learning as they create the guiding questions that will help them find a solution. Teachers have the important job of planning the projects. Patty Vreeland from Newsome Park Elementary School in Virginia believes that, “teachers need to be willing to work a little harder to do it this way. Even though it looks like the kids are doing the hard work, there is a lot of planning that goes on behind it” (Curtis, 2001). Teachers also become the facilitators during the project as they guide students to be successful and work together.
Project based learning is a great way to increase student engagement and create real world application of skills and knowledge. Eeva Reeder, a geometry teacher at Mountlake Terrace High School in Seattle, created her culminating project when she realized that her students were unable to connect and retain their learning in her class (Armstrong, 2002). Reeder’s project of creating a high school for the future connects the geometry skills and knowledge the students have learned throughout the school year. Students apply those skills in a real world situation with feedback from professional architects. The students were eager for feedback from the architects to improve their work, not just their grade. The opportunity to showcase their work to an audience outside of the classroom also motivated the students to do their best work.
Project based learning is about students guiding their own learning in real world situations. It increases student engagement, retention of knowledge and mastering of essential skills. Some of the examples let the students pick the topics of study while others were picked by the teacher but the learning was successful in all three settings. Teachers that want to use project based learning in their classrooms need to realize the amount of work it takes to create a successful project and be willing to let go of the control as the students take the lead in their own learning.
Armstrong, S. (2002). Geometry students angle into architecture through project learning [article]. Retrieved on June 28, 2012 from http://www.edutopia.org/geometry-real-world-students-architects
Curtis, D. (2002). March of the monarchs: students follow the butterflies’ migration [article]. Retrieved on June 28, 2012 from http://www.edutopia.org/march-monarchs
Curtis, D. (2001). More fun than a barrel of . . . worms?! [article]. Retrieved on June 28, 2012 from http://www.edutopia.org/more-fun-barrel-worms