Project based learning can be a great asset to classroom learning. It provides students the opportunity to drive their learning and connect learning outside the classroom. As an american history teacher to 107 8th graders I can see the immediate impact of project based learning. All of my students have different needs and learning abilities. Project based learning allows for all of those needs and abilities to addressed through student choice, differentiation, scaffolding, project creation, and more. While the planning of PBL seems daunting, the benefits are overwhelming. I first introduced PBL into my classroom last spring. My school does a school wide project called history wars. This project presents students with a “problem” to solve. The two history wars projects the school has developed are: What historical figure would help save us in the zombie apocalypse? and Washington DC has received funding for a new monument, who deserves it? The 7th and 8th graders at my school spend a few weeks researching historical figures, developing a project plan, and creating a final product to present to their history teachers. Winners are chosen for the best project that represents historical accuracy and a quality product. Although history wars is only 2 years old, it has become a highlight of many middle school students and kids are already asking about this years project.
Last year I took a back seat roll in this project. I was a first year teacher and was just hoping to learn about the whole process. This year I plan on being a more active participant in the planning. I am hoping to incorporate more than just the history classes as a part of this school wide project. As I am developing my project, I keep thinking about math and science. I would love to work with them more often, but feel like I am always making it a “stretch.” My goal for this years project, is to have students conduct research, graph data, and test products – helping me incorporate skills from our science classes. I am also hoping to incorporate math by having students assess profit vs. cost on a product they create. I have proposed to my social studies department a toy idea…making the next biggest toy symbolize an influential historical figure. I am hoping they will love the idea and we can begin moving forward with the project design!