Get set for Project Based Learning!

September 17, 2010 at 4:17 PM Leave a comment

What are some projects kids are already familiar with? In our area, the new span of the Bay Bridge. On a smaller scale, building a chicken coop, a fence, a planter box or making a whole dinner, including the shopping. (One of my 7th graders does all that – wow.)     

So we practice organizing the tasks for making a Paprika Chicken dinner into a work flow chart. (They used pre-written chits from an appendix activity in the Take Action Project)     

Sorting tasks into a work flow chart for a chicken dinner


Kids tended to make a linear ‘flow’, instead of a branching one. Branches are tasks that could be done during say, the chicken cooking. Or by another person. Both will save time. (Which is why we always get the kids to clean up and lay the table, right?)     

We let them struggle a little while, then bring them together and make one as a class. Rebecca our new 7th grade teacher, had this great way of then putting the flow chart onto a time line:     

Work flow chart for making a chicken dinner


We really emphasize planning backwards from the deadline – sounds familiar, and good advice for planning the whole of project based learning 🙂 and finding the ‘critical path’ or the longest chain of events that depend one on the other. The critical path is the shortest time that all the tasks can be completed in. That will inform interim deadlines.     

All this really does work for making a complicated meal – I’ve used it for a rush dinner party with post-its on my cupboard doors. Didn’t quite make it but luckily, they are nice friends…     

Finally, students figured out how they were going to plan for a kid camping night in a friends backyard. This time they generated their own tasks, organized them and made a simple timeline.     

It’s also based on business project management strategies. So it’s what our students will use first with their “Grow Food Project” coming right up, then with “Take Action” and again in 8th with the “Sports Project” and the “Problems With Oil Project”. And perhaps with the myriad projects that might make their lives meaningful and satisfying.


Entry filed under: Grow Food Project, The Problems with Oil Project, The Sports Project.

What affects tests scores? Kids graph it themselves. Grow Food Project: Planning and Planting

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