Project-Based Learning is driven by student interest to solve or learn about authentic issues or problems. Multiple skills and knowledge, across subjects, are learned as “real world” investigation takes place through Project-Based Learning. Think of the advent of story problems in elementary mathematics. The purpose of story problems is to make math more meaningful. For example, “5 + 3 = ___” is a much more sterile approach to asking, “If Sally needs 5 pencils and Sam needs 3 pencils, how many pencils do Sally and Sam need in all?” There is more incentive to solve the second problem than the first because the relevance of solving it seems more obvious. How many times do kids ask, “Why do I have to learn math?” Creating meaningful story problems answers that question.
While Project-Based Learning is more involved than writing a story problem, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It will simply have a larger scope and require the use of more skills than a single, traditional, word problem. For example, suppose your First Grader is learning to read and is very excited about how many books she has already read in the first month of school. Your child can be challenged to keep a written list of the books she reads, as well as the number of pages read in each book. This project provides incentive to read; involves spelling and writing skills to write the title of each book; and requires subtraction skills in figuring out how many pages are read, since most books do not start on page 1 (e.g., the book ends on page 14 but didn’t start until page 3, so 14-3=11 pages read). If your child is able, ask him to include the author (and illustrator) of the book so he learns what an author is. Your child can also count how many books she read by individual authors. Bar graphs can then be produced to illustrate the results.
As you can see, this project can be expanded in many different ways to meet the ability and interests of your child, thus increasing the appeal of the work. Not only are these types of projects more interesting than answering meaningless problems, they teach several skills at once! Projects can also be the jumping off point for further exploration into a given topic. So, challenge yourself and your child with some Project Based Learning this week! For more assistance, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.