“At our Project Based Learning (PBL) high school we are constantly developing the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills of our students through collaboration in authentic work. We decided to end the school year with a service learning project to focus on the competency of social awareness. We combined American Studies, an integrated American history and ELA class, with chemistry in the Poverty Project. In American Studies, students explored the questions: “Why are people poor? Whose fault is it? and How can we fix poverty?” while learning about the Great Depression and reading The Great Gatsby. In chemistry class, students learned about how soap works on a molecular level and the intermolecular forces involved.
To launch the project, we had representatives from Heartside, a local mission that works with their “neighbors” (homeless people), come in and talk to students about how Heartside shows their neighbors respect and gives them dignity through education and art programs. Our students were challenged to brainstorm what they could do to support Heartside…..”
Ever have a project that students don’t get very excited about? Chances are that it was lacking a quality audience and purpose.
Deciding on the right public product that is authentic to students can be one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of designing a gold standard project-based learning (PBL) project. Sometimes teachers try to force a project on a set of standards in an artificial way. A way to avoid this is to start with an excellent, local partner.
How We “Went Public”
In our community, Grand Rapids, a couple of local citizens started an organization called Grand Rapids Whitewater, dedicated to removing dams from the Grand River in order to restore the original rapids for economic and ecological reasons. They raised money and political capital until it became obvious that their dream was going to become a reality. My colleagues and I immediately recognized that this was going to be the biggest change to our city in decades. We had to get our students involved!
This post is totally selfish and self promoting. Skip it if that offends you 🙂
I am excited to officially be a National Faculty member of BIE. BIE is a leader in professional development of Project Based Learning and I will be doing PBL 101 workshops for them in the summer. I am excited by this opportunity especially since it is part time and I will remain doing my true love-teaching in the classroom.
I also am available as a consultant for workshops on various topics ranging from PBL, Standards Based Grading, inquiry and student centered curriculum, and more. You can leave a comment or reach me on my contact page.