Do you remember the projects you completed as a kid?
I remember mine well.
As a 3rd grader, after learning about the universe I built a mobile model of the solar system. I used foam balls and paint to construct each planet. As a 6th grader, after learning about Medieval Europe, I built a castle out of sugar cubes. I remember vividly using toothpicks and nylon string to build the drawbridge. As a 7th grader, after learning about the scientific process, I ran a science experiment on how polymers affect plant growth. I remember displaying my findings on a cardboard trifold beside a hundred other peers inside of a huge auditorium.
I also vividly remember what I did after every exhibition.
After each showcase of my learning, I promptly disposed of my projects in a large dumpster outside the back of school. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Pieces of old projects; bent cardboard, foam and used popsicle sticks leaked out of the sides.
Do you have similar memories?
‘Doing Projects’ vs. Project-Based Learning (PBL)
The problem with these kinds of projects, is not that they aren’t fun or memorable–they certainly beat learning from a textbook–but rather, it’s that they hardly resemble the way projects work in the real world.
In the real world, projects don’t start once the learning is complete, they are what drives the learning in the first place.
My brother, a computer programmer, learns to write code based on new software he needs to develop. My good friend, a music producer, learns to overlay new beats based on the album he hopes to produce. And another of my brothers, an intellectual property lawyer, uncovers new case law depending on the client he will represent.
While every one of these projects relied on a foundational skill set, new skills and learning were acquired based on the needs of the project.
The learning took place through the project.
If, as teachers, we hope to create projects that reflect the way learning takes place in the ‘real world,’ we need to design experiences, assessments, and lessons that reflect real world learning.
Project-Based Learning at AIS
24 AIS Educators committed to Kyle Wagner’s The Project-Based Learning Course that taught them how to do just that.
History teachers have designed experiences that allow students to develop and curate real museum memorials celebrating victims of war. Music teachers have guided students to create their own original musical scores for soundscapes around campus. Homeroom and Outdoor Educational Leadership Program Coordinators teachers have now partnered students with local NGOs to tackle real Sustainable Development Goals ranging from income inequality to building more sustainable cities.
Through the PBL Immersive Program, teachers learned:
- The seven key components of high-quality PBL
- The simple 5-step process to design and plan blended learning projects with their learners
- How to design varied formative and summative PBL assessment to assess standards and 21st century skills in hybrid environments
- Strategies for remote and in-person project management
- How to design virtual project study guides and resources to support student independent learning
- New digital tools for project management
- How to personalize and differentiate project- based experiences for learners
On October 21, 2020, these 24 incredible AIS Educators graduated from Kyle Wagner’s PBL Immersive Program and are now integrating their knowledge into their own units.
To learn more about the projects our AIS educators came up with, come back to this blog at the end of the year.
To read Kyle Wagner’s full blog ‘Doing Projects’ vs. Project-Based Learning: Five Questions to Improve Your PBL Experiences, go here.
Kyle Wagner is an innovations and project-based learning coach, and founder of Transform Educational Consulting Limited, helping forward thinking educators create socially, emotionally and globally aware citizens through project- based learning. He has worked with over 1,000 educators in schools across the globe to design and deliver transformative learning experiences for students.