Tag Archives: entry event

7 Remote Entry Events in PBL

This is the first of a series of posts about what Project Based Learning infused with Social and Emotional Learning looks like when teaching remotely. Is it the ideal situation? Probably not, but it is the reality that many of us are dealing with. I will share my ideas and what others are doing to hopefully inspire you to action.

Entry Events

Every project should begin with an entry event to prime the learner’s pump. We want to activate the prior learning inside of our students to launch the project. We also want to get kids excited about the topic that we are about to study. Entry events are a “hook” to the content that is coming and preemptively answer the age-old student complaint, “Why do we have to learn this?”

A good entry event captures both heads and hearts. An interesting problem creates cognitive dissonance while an empathetic situation generates an emotional perspective to the issue at hand. Different students will react more strongly to each, so including both engages more students into the project. Finally, the entry event should connect the content to the community and the final product.

One of my favorite entry event videos is posted below. Watch, laugh, and enjoy the plot twist. But then ask yourself, “What is the final product and community connection?”

Hopefully these teachers did more than just this simulation, but also tied this into a larger purpose. Sometimes rather than being a single experience, entry events are multiple activities that build upon each other to a culminating call to action.

Historically, by which I mean before Covid, entry events included things like simulations, inspiring videos, field work, guest speakers, a controversial article, open-ended science experiments, or a puzzling problem. Many of the best entry events require interactions between student and the community. So how can you launch an engaging project online? Here’s some ideas to consider:

Videos with Back Channel Discussion

Obviously, videos still work in remote learning, but just dropping a video into your LMS feed for students to watch whenever they feel like it, isn’t going to cut it. Make it an event. Schedule a time to watch the video together in live time. Have students active in a chat reacting to it as they watch. Show multiple short videos around a theme. Use videos from various platforms like TicTok, news clips, interviews, or science clips, not just movies or YouTube. Share videos of diverse people reacting to your topic to give them multiple perspectives.

It is important to set the stage. If you just show a video without any background, students may not react much. Instead hype it up by telling students we about to launch a huge project to set up the video before viewing it. Your enthusiasm toward the project launch goes a long way in selling the value of what you are about to embark on.

Video Conference Guests

Many teachers are using video conferencing to invite in guest speakers. One benefit of social distancing is that many adults are working from home and it is actually easier for them to commit to sharing with your class. They don’t need to take time off from their job or travel, but can easily join you for a few minutes.

Guest speakers don’t need to be national scientists or famous leaders. Your local healthcare worker or government official are more accessible and connect the project to your local community. Having trouble finding someone? Ask your students’ parents to contribute personally or if they have a connection in the field related to your project. Many teachers are uncomfortable with networking, but reaching out is a risk worth taking to move your project to the next level.

Virtual Field Trips

I don’t think anyone is scheduling field trips this year. The risks and safety protocols are too big of an obstacle. I prefer the term, field work, which implies that there is a purpose and task to be completed related to the project. But in lieu of physical trips there are hundreds of online options from virtual museums, webcams, or other virtual trips such as Google Expeditions.

Teacher Field Work

Another option is to do the field work yourself. My friend, Sarah Smith and her team go on a trip themselves, interview people, collect data and information for the project. They record their field work and edit it to present to students the information. Is this better than students doing it? No, but it is better than no trip at all. Personally I love this idea!

Home Field Work

Field work can be done at home. Tell students to go outside and collect bugs, leaves, water samples, or whatever else that you are studying. Have them observe patterns in their neighborhood or at the store (if they go). Assign data collection of how much time they sleep, read, exercise, and are online. This kind of field work is personal and relevant. Bonus: you can get them off from their devices and active.


We may not be gathering with loved ones over the holidays as the virus is spiking, but a phone call or video conference with family members is a great opportunity to interview them to get their perspective on a historical event, current event, or cultural viewpoints. Tying content into family history is a powerful way to make it relevant. When students share different viewpoints with each other they can learn to appreciate other perspectives.

Virtual Simulations

Run a virtual experiment or record yourself in a science lab. Use a popular game like Minecraft or Among Us as the launching point. Ask students to design their own (safe!) experiments at home with adult supervision. Have them investigate scientific phenomenon themselves.

No matter what option or combination of options, you choose, an engaging entry event is critical for student buy-in to the project. Few of us consider remote learning ideal, but we can still engage students in relevant work with a little creative thinking.

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL workshops or consulting?  Connect with me at  michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele.

Entry Events are Easy as ABC

Bill Nye has a hot take on global warming. (YouTube screen grab via Last Week Tonight)

Most students do not come to our classes in love with the content. Maybe one geeky kid does, but most kids need a hook. Therefore we need to generate some excitement by launching PBL projects with an entry event. Remember Bill Nye’s formula for an engaging show for kids: ABC, action before content. We can’t expect students to be immediately ready to immerse themselves in new ideas.

Before students’ minds go deep, their bodies must actively engage with content.

The purpose of the entry event is to generate a buzz around the topic, build curiosity, and give students some initial background knowledge. The best entry events have both a cognitive and an empathetic hook to them. We want to catch students by both the heart and the mind.

An effective entry event naturally leads to student questions about the topic. It could be as simple as a short YouTube video or be as complex as a multiple-day simulation. Experiments, guest speakers, and field work are other popular types of entry events. Excellent entry events often have an element of mystery or surprise to them.

Question: When do most schools take field trips? 

Answer: At the end of a project or year, often as a reward or celebration. 

In PBL, we flip the script and plan field work at the beginning of the project using them as entry events. My colleague, Jim Bentley uses the term field work instead of field trips because the former implies vocation, while the latter implies recreation. Our students won’t be passive spectators, but actively engaged in early research.

Before starting a project on the Industrial Revolution, our students toured local factories to learn how modern manufacturing functions. To launch an integrated project on nuclear power, we visited the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University to discover how atoms are smashed into tiny isotopes that only exist in space. The university professor used magnetic marbles to teach students about isotopes.

In Necedah, Wisconsin, Melissa Riggs and Tracy Saylor’s 1st and 2nd graders investigated the DQ: How does a plant go from seed to table? Their class toured a local cranberry marsh to learn about the life cycle of plants. Students were engaged because they eat Craisins all of the time as snacks, but got to see the entire process from growing to harvesting to packaging and shipping. It demystified that food does not come from the store.

Another common entry event is to invite a guest speakers that can provide insight into different perspectives. The MyParty Election Project brought in local campaign managers from both the Democratic and Republican Party to share with students. One student asked the Republican representative, “What do you do to appeal to young people?” The campaign manager asked him if he really wanted to know the truth. After confirming that the student truly did, the campaign manager told the class, “Nothing, because young people don’t vote.” That interaction fired up the students to make their voices heard! 

I had members of the Lost Boys of Sudan come share about what it is like to be child refugees as a result of genocide. In a Great Depression project, a formerly homeless family told their story of job loss and medical bills to help students dig deeper into the causes of poverty. For women’s rights, a female pastor shared her heartbreaking story of years of spousal abuse, and how she escaped. Investment brokers explained to students how to properly invest in a financial planning project.

Think about careers or organizations related to the topic of your project and invite them to share authentic perspectives with your class.

When the distance is too far, guest schedules are too busy, or there is no budget for field work, videoconferencing is an excellent alternative. With today’s free technology, students can connect with experts anywhere in the world to learn with them and communicate their own discoveries. Another option is to record student questions that an expert can videotape their response. This is a great solution when time zones are an issue or if you have multiple classes and don’t want to overwhelm a guest by asking them to spend a whole day at your school.

When students are hooked from the start, they will ask important questions related to the topic in the Need to Know process. These will motivate kids to continue inquiry throughout the project. The questions become the foundation for the learning throughout the rest of the project. So remember your ABC as you plan your next project!

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL Consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.