The Start of a Project Based Learning Community?

August 27, 2011 at 11:17 AM Leave a comment

The start of school workshops this year, included PBL as part of our new, district and school-wide emphasis on 21st Century Skills. At the workshop were a refreshing variety of teachers, from K to 8, special ed., ELA, elementary class teachers, wood shop and math, plus a separate workshop for my science department. (Science colleagues – I learned from our workshop and made a few changes for the district one, with more time for people to think and talk, and less internet stuff, thanks for the input, Adam.)

So great to get to share ideas and enthusiasm and hopefully, start to build some community.Project-based learning is so much more fun in the company of other educators, especially when you can get together in real time and space, and all from the same school and community culture. If you are from the Orinda Union School District, a specially warm welcome!

I’m enclosing the slide show used to introduce PBL and get us thinking about how to get started, based around coming up with a compelling question, or as the Buck Institute for Education calls it, the ‘Driving Question’.

It’s the center around which the rest of the project rises or falls. Does it generate a whole load of chatter amongst the adults? “Oh you’d definitely want to try…” “Well, you’d have to consider…” “I did something like this and it would work better if…” etc. where people instantly engage with the topic and lose sight of the PBL design. That’s a good indicator that it’s a project DQ with legs. Here were some that might fly (literally in some cases):

“A travel brochure for an ancient civilization.”

“How did your family get here?” (American history class)

“Plan a holiday meal plus gifts on a budget” (2nd grade math, including virtual shopping 🙂

“Get your writing published.”

“Where does garbage go?”

“Plan your ultimate road trip (including state capitals)”

“Make a table.” (wood shop. This project has legs…)

“Math Olympics – how far can you get a paper javelin, frisbee and ‘shot put’ to go?” (I’ll re-package this as “How far can you fling a piece of paper for a force and motion unit 🙂

In the slide show PBL OUSD PD Aug2011, are many links for other ideas for project DQs that have worked.

I decided to keep the focus on this ONE thing so we could all think and interact, instead of the usual rush through a million PowerPoint slides where the take-away is ‘whew, that was colorful/overwhelming/something for other people to try’. You know what I mean. Just having some TIME to brainstorm questions and challenges was so fun.

Boiling PBL down to a central idea, the Driving Question, so much better than a giant ‘how-to’. Once any of my very able colleagues get to the ‘why-to’, we can access all sorts of resources for how-to on an as-needed basis. The Buck Institute has some excellent resources for free, by the way. And we have each other.

So, how’s it going for projects so far, three days into the school year or so? Let us know with your comments below. Fails and funny stuff especially welcome 🙂


Entry filed under: Creativity, Inquiry and critical thinking, Project Based Learning, PROJECTS, Reflections, Uncategorized, Workshop Reports.

PBL + Standardized Test Results = ? Pre-testing academic vocabulary interactively

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