Learning about (Project-Based) Learning

About this time of year, I usually take some form of assessment as to how the year is progressing.   As we wind down to the biggest breaks of the school year that we have, it is an appropriate time to reflect on what I call “stops, starts, and continues” (a holdover from my corporate days). The starts, stops, and continues  are my way of defining what we need to add, to modify or stop altogether, as well as what are the staples that remain foundational to what we are doing here.

As a relevant digression, I have walked away from some of my writing commitments to others in part because of feeling compelled to change my “voice” to that of an alleged expert.   Hopefully, in not serving as different of an audience, I can transition to more of the “what’s happening in our lives right now” types of post (although I reserve the right to step back into “expert” mode as my ego arises (smile)).

I am blessed to have a very independent learner in our son.   At the beginning of the semester, I handed him a schedule and, for the most part, I’ve not seen him since—unless it’s meal time (lol).   He is wholly bought into the idea that he can save himself time—and for us, money—if he gets his basics completed here locally at our community college.  I love it.   He came with a plan for what classes would help him the most, and he has called his desired colleges as needed and spoken with advisors to be sure that he wouldn’t just “spin his wheels,” so to speak, by taking a given class at our community college rather than waiting to enroll at a four-year university.

His independence has given me some much needed one-on-one time with our youngest.   She is a different kid than our older two in so many ways, and that includes her learning style.   So, Mom is back at the drawing board as a student once again.   Our living books approach will continue to be our foundation, but based upon her energy and enthusiasm around certain aspects of school, I am also learning about Project Based Learning, and how it differs from simply completing projects while you learn.  It occurs to me as I read through various articles that Project Based Learning components are exactly what she enjoys so much about Engineering is Elementary.

eie ice cream shot 1


eie ice cream shot 2

It also occurs to me that we are immediately challenged with the teamwork component, as well as giving her an audience for her final project.   To date, the audience has been her dad.   So, I might have to be creative about those aspects of her work.   But there is also another challenge that is far more daunting than finding eyes to admire her end results:   trying to balance between freeing a child’s mind and confining yourself to a table and a pen and paper.     My personal enthusiasm for PBL was quenched when I read this statement:

Putting together a PBL science plan can be enormously time consuming without excellent models.’   (http://hubpages.com/education/project-based-learning-science-lesson-plans-pbl)


Enormously time consuming??!!   Why not just say, “Forget about it!  You’ve got too much to do already!!”   Let’s just say that I am that wise man who is treading lightly where a fool would rush in.   This semester’s engineering project was postponed as I ran out of time trying to find a wind-up toy (who makes these anymore?) and a supplier of sphagnum moss and nylon screen.  Thanks to Lowe’s for being a knight in shining armor on those last two items.   As one who complains constantly that the household items that are often listed as “common” in science curriculum are anything but common in our household, I don’t know that PBL will be my personal cup of tea.   BUT, if it gets her excited about learning, well…


While I pray and vacillate between where we are and where we might go with this newfound knowledge, I wanted to share a few websites, just in case it interests you, too:


Why PBL?   http://bie.org/

More articles: http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning

PBL Science Lesson Plans: http://hubpages.com/education/project-based-learning-science-lesson-plans-pbl


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