What is project-based learning?
By Christina Lorenzen
The education system evolves rapidly. The curriculum considered the gold standard today is discarded tomorrow. While education experts know that children learn through a definitive set of learning styles, it seems as if teaching methods change all the time.
It might sound like some new-age idea, but project-based learning dates back to Ancient Greek times. Simply put, project-based learning is learning by doing. Like an apprentice at a job, children gain their knowledge through hands-on application.
The philosophers Aristotle and Confucius were great advocates of learning by doing. Socrates’ also used a learning strategy through questioning, inquiry, and critical thinking, the backbone of the project-based learning taking place in public classrooms today. The range of activities that can be implemented in project-based learning makes it suitable for children from kindergarten through high school.
Project-based Learning by Grade Level and Learning Style
Project-based learning can be adapted to the specific grade level and learning style of the child. A wonderful example of children learning about geometry in the k-2 grades level was documented by Brandi Leggett, an elementary school teacher at Rosehill Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas. Leggett taught her students how geometry is used in the real world. Students watched videos, filled out worksheets, and created shapes with playdough. Additionally, her students walked through the school hallways, taking pictures of shapes they found, which led to a discussion of why certain shapes were used as they were. Students used geometry stencils to create pictures that combined shapes culminating in a stop motion movie of the object they created. This successful exercise in project-based learning transformed learning about geometry into numerous flexible activities according to various ages in Leggett’s group. Project-based learning is also multidisciplinary, with projects designed for children to draw on multiple subjects at once, such as history and science or social studies and language arts. A middle school teaching team in Holt, Michigan, did exactly that.
Sixth-grade teachers Kristin Hundt and Katie Bielecki combined language arts and social studies in a project-based experience. The goal was to empower global citizens so they knew how to use their voices through choices. Students studied a diversity of global issues guided by their teachers concerning the communities they lived in. Learning about inequities of resources of their own school’s playground compared to others with the same population of students inspired the students to work. This project-based learning included students drawing maps, writing grants to stakeholders, meeting with a contractor, and finally building a playground that also served as an outdoor classroom.
Project-based learning at the high school level can also be a training ground for students to prepare to venture out into the world. The students of a tenth-grade environmental science teacher, Erin Loch at Upper Dublin High School in Upper Dublin Township in Pennsylvania, demonstrated how project-based learning goes beyond the classroom as they took on a project that addressed water pollution in their township. To address and resolve an environmental issue, Loch’s students learned of the water pollution problem in Upper Dublin Township. Upon learning that the Loch Alsh Reservoir (no relation to their teacher), the source of their drinking water, was less than ninety feet from Route 309, the students went to work. The project entailed building and planting a buffer zone as well as introducing water bottle filling stations. Water bottle filling stations would help reduce the high school’s water footprint and reduce single-use water bottles in landfills, greatly improving groundwater quality. Loch’s environmental science students became adept at problem-solving and working with others as they worked with the local township, a sustainable landscape architect, and a native plant nursery. Students had to write professional e-mails and get comfortable interacting with adult authorities to ask for funding. Project-based learning was invaluable for the students, and their community will benefit for years to come.
Project-based Learning in a Homeschool Setting
The same experiences and benefits that project-based learning accomplishes in public schools can be achieved within the homeschool. Homeschoolers can gain and apply skills working on a long-term project that begins with a question or an interest in a specific topic. Just as it is suitable for all grade levels in public schools, homeschooling families can adopt project-based learning so that each child can work on the project at the most appropriate level.
One of the great advantages of using project-based learning in the homeschool is the ability to incorporate several disciplines simultaneously. A project-based curriculum can cover aspects of science, history, language arts, and more in a way that works with each child’s learning style.
While some homeschooling parents will be inclined to help their students, it’s best to let each child have a say in their curriculum. Start by letting them decide what it is they want to learn about. Let them choose what formats they will use and how long the project will take. Project-based learning can be a week-long, month-long, or semester-long experience. As the parent, you can make sure the project incorporates multiple skills and several learning areas. Please help your child with their research skills and be ready to take them to destinations they need to visit to get the needed information. Listen to them and lend an ear that is open to discussion but let them do the work.
There are numerous benefits to using project-based learning in the homeschool. Unlike solely using textbooks and texts, project-based learning is child-led. Going beyond the surface encourages deep learning. While it may seem that children get to learn whatever thought comes to mind, project-based learning teaches children to follow their interests in a purposeful way, one that often connects them to and strengthens their community. Lastly, project-based learning puts the child’s spotlight and the style that best suits how they learn. It does not have to be complicated, and much of the curriculum can come from resources such as the public library, educational websites, and the community.
How Anything Academic Can Help
Anything Academic is here to help you succeed in project-based learning. Getting started is as easy as completing our search and discovering the different groups, books, curriculums, learning resources, and more that can assist you every step of the way. We’ve dedicated this site to help parents and students find the resources they need efficiently. So, instead of spending hours and hours searching the web and coming up frustrated and empty-handed, let us help! We can show you what’s available in seconds, and you can spend your time determining which resource, teacher, or curriculum is best for you.