This year, my school district implemented Project-Based Learning (PBL) as everyone’s professional development project for the year. If you’re not familiar with Project Based Learning, it’s a teaching approach that’s very student-driven rather than teacher-driven, and students explore a real world problem/challenge/question of their choosing while exploring possible solutions through various methods– research, collaboration, etc…
An excerpt from Edutopia explains it in a little more detail:
“PBL is the ongoing act of learning about different subjects simultaneously. This is achieved by guiding students to identify, through research, a real-world problem (local to global) developing its solution using evidence to support the claim, and presenting the solution through a multimedia approach based in a set of 21st-century tools.
Kids show what they learn as they journey through the unit, interact with its lessons, collaborate with each other, and assess themselves and each other. They don’t just take a test or produce a product at the end to show their learning.”
I implemented PBL by acting as support for one of my preschool teachers in a Community Helpers project in her classroom– “What do I want to be when I grow up?” was our driving question that began PBL! (Every PBL starts with the “driving question.”)
We split the kids up into small groups during PBL week based on their chosen occupations. The kids ended up choosing to be doctors, firefighters, police officers, bakers/chefs, engineers, and astronauts. The teacher and I loaded up our library cards with books about each occupation so the kids could start their research on their chosen occupation!
I took the doctor group, and we started researching what a doctor does by looking through books, watching videos, and exploring through apps. I also had a doctor kit out so we could explore the tools a little more!
From those videos, we learned about what doctors do, why they are important, what they wear, where they work, and what tools they use. Each student drew pictures of what they learned, using these booklets that you can download on TpT here.
The tools are from the play doctor kit that was picked up for pennies at a yard sale!
After completing the booklets, the kids decided on a project they wanted to make to represent their chosen occupations. In my doctor group, the chosen projects were doctor bags, an otoscope, and an x-ray. These are the finished projects.. They turned out pretty cute!
I will say that I have even MORE respect for teachers after doing this project. Within my doctor group, I had 2 kids with language delays, one peer model, and another student on an IEP for other needs besides communication. My one language student just needed some prompts to recall some of the information, but was pretty on task overall and could complete the drawings in her booklet independently. The other student on my caseload needs significant wait time along with cuing to come up with answers. She also says “I can’t” or “I don’t know how” during any activity that involves drawing, and won’t attempt it unless she’s walked step by step through how to draw it. The peer model in the group FLEW through everything, and the other student not on my caseload needed a lot of prompting and cuing to stay on task. It was such a struggle to feel like I was being effective and meeting the needs of everyone in the group, since they were all at *COMPLETELY* different levels. I can’t imagine what this feels like in a classroom of 23 students of all varying levels!
Overall, though, I’d say our PBL project was a success! We had to provide a little more guidance than what is probably *supposed* to happen for PBL, but when you work in a special needs preschool program, you have to adapt! After making their projects, we recorded short video clips of all the students talking about what they want to be when they grow up, what that job involves, what tools they use, where they work, and what they made for their project.
Does your school do Project Based Learning? If so, what projects have you done/helped with?