Lately, many teachers are interested in using project-based learning as the basis and guidance for their curriculum. However, it can be hard to get started and difficult to maintain. It takes a lot of time and work to keep up a project that guides a curriculum. This is my first year attempting a large-scale project, and it is becoming pretty stressful, but the outcomes so far have been great. So, I want to share one great strategy for getting started on a project.
First of all, the teacher needs to do some interest or passion surveys with the class in order to find out what kinds of projects will engage the students’ interests. Each class is different, and teachers need to find out the strengths of the students first. A multiple intelligence survey can greatly help. I started off the school year with a multiple intelligence survey and an interest survey, and I found out my students’ strengths were mainly kinesthetic and naturalist. Next, I looked at the science and social studies standards to find which standards would lend themselves best to a kinesthetic or naturalist project. I knew right when I looked at the standards that I would be able to guide the students toward a project along the lines of learning about our local geography, which is a social studies standard. I also knew that our unit on habitats, which is a science standard, would fit perfectly as well. I started by having the students read an article that introduced one key word that I knew we would be studying: native. I knew that the idea of native wildlife and native plants would be big ideas in any study on local geography, local resources, and local habitats. Next, I used a great organizational strategy.
The strategy I used was one of the most important strategies for choosing our project. That was a KWHLAQ chart. The following link can tell you more about this chart, and it is the same blog post I read which inspired me to first use the chart to guide my PBL project: Upgrade Your KWL Chart to the 21st Century. Through this chart, I found that my students were most interested in doing some sort of project that could restore the natural balance of our local habitat. We had previously read, during our study of Native Americans about bison being returned to their native and tribal lands, and the students had remembered that article as well. They wanted to do something that would make a positive impact toward attracting more native wildlife to our school. Ultimately it lead to our butterfly garden project. This project has been an extraordinary learning experience for my students, and especially for me. I can’t wait to share more about our process, but for now, I will leave you with this first step. Do a KWHLAQ chart! I promise, whether you’re looking for a short-term inquiry or a long-term project, it will help organize your vision! Have you used this chart before? Let me know how it went!