Project Based Learning is an engaging pedagogy of the hands, heart, and mind. It is not a curriculum, but rather the cultural fabric of a school. It incorporates both teacher directed learning and student choice, to ensure passion-driven learning experiences. It is both content rich and standards aligned, however students dig deep, have opportunities to forge their own path, and engage with community partners.
Future college and career readiness requires learning habits, skills, and abilities vastly different from the industrialized economy. Students live in an age that demands critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication, as they will be addressing many of the world’s complex problems. High quality PBL integrates the 21st century literacies, which are tied to many of the complex problems within our global society. The literacies include, health, financial, civic, and technological, also important are the concepts of social entrepreneurship.
At Discovery Day Academy, we partner with Eduthink21, an organization founded by Elizabeth Garcia’s work around 21st century teaching and learning. We deliver engaging project based learning to our students within a growing global network of schools. Eduthink21’s PBL model observes the following:
Sensory Provisioning: Neuroscience research ties the piquing of student curiosity to higher levels of retention of the information following an interest sparking experience. We pique the curiosity of our students within sensory provisioned classrooms, engaging all of the senses through discovery and exploration. During the Panda Project, students arrive to traditional Chinese music, walls adorned with traditional Chinese suits, maps, and characters. Centers include structures and photos of the engineering marvel, The Great Wall of China, herbs for exploring traditional Chinese medicine in the science center, and a literacy rich environment filled with the wonders of all things Panda and China. Virtual filed trips and community partner visits are also used to pique student curiosity. We also observe a makers philosophy, where students are able to tinker and create to express the application of their learning through project work.
Authentic Learning: All projects are tied to a community partner that provides a real-world problem to explore. Students engage with professionals from diverse fields, partnering to solve problems within their community and beyond. The heart of PBL is the change making opportunity provided to students, enabling them to make a positive difference. Students partnered with a panda sanctuary during the Panda Project in first grade, impacting the conservation of the animal. Connections are made to social entrepreneurship, setting the foundations of a desire to make a change in the world and solve complex problems.
Inquiry Driven: Learning is an inch wide and a mile deep. A carefully crafted question drives each project, which is aligned to learning content and standards. Thereafter, student questions continue to move the research and learning process forward. Student driven learning allows for the exploration of related concepts, where students make connections and apply knowledge. One valuable strategy for discussing content is Socratic seminars or philosophical communities of inquiry. We also integrate thinking routines, as the basis for our intellectual community.
Discovery’s classrooms are a vast departure from desks in rows. Students are engaged within flexible classroom environments, learning from each other, digging deep, and creatively making their mark on the world.