I’m a middle school science teacher in California, working in a suburban school with my great friend and colleague Marshall Sachs. We want to get students fired up about science with fun, inquiry, issues, food, fun and project based learning. It’s serious fun though, We are not interested in just playing. And finally, this approach is also deeply woven into our new Next Generation Science Standards. What a relief after years of the previous laundry-list California standards!
But how to balance student choice with classroom chaos? How to do meaningful projects and open-ended experimentation within a traditional, 45 minute period? And how to be flexible but not so flexible that I lose my mind? What will shake my cool 7th graders out of their urgent conversations into creative problem solving? About science issues, although hey, objectivity and a logical systematic approach to problems in their lives might be really effective too. I suppose that’s the point – that they come away understanding how science is powerful in real life
This is a log of my imperfect attempts to balance the dilemmas and address the questions above.
The “Take Action Project” of the blog title is pbl curriculum I developed with help from my colleagues Karen Snelson and Marshall Sachs. It’s in it’s 9th year now, where students take informed and effective action on a science-related issue of their choice. This inquiry based project runs within a traditional school schedule, taking about 20 lessons spread over a semester. Students start with a small action at home, scale it up – what if everyone did that for a year? – and then are inspired to learn their action is urgently needed in the big picture of climate change. They make a public service multi media ad to show at Open House as their final product. It’s a much-anticipated, cross curricular project in our school community.
There are many other, tried and tweaked projects with pics and activity sheets for students, useful links. You can also find several projects published at NextLesson.com for free.
Interested in implementing NGSS aligned PBL in your school? I’d love to help with a kick-off workshop and coaching for teachers at any grade level. Check out the page ‘Getting Started with PBL‘. You can see my professional experience here. I’m looking forward to hearing from you – comments in the blog and directly via e mail at email@example.com