Project Based Learning (PBL) is loosely defined as
"a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem. Students learn both thinking strategies and domain knowledge."
This type of authentic learning opportunity looks different in middle school than it does in the 4th grade, and different still in the early childhood classroom. Here, teachers often have to facilitate more, and actively instill curiosity and wonder about a topic. We tend to do more whole-group projects towards a common goal, rather than everyone doing their own thing. Using academic jargon for a moment, we teachers are scaffolding - leading children closer to the next step, which will be more individual work, setting up their own rubrics for assessment, and so on.
One of our big projects for this semester revolves around a service project called "Bake Sale for the Birdies". Doing this project, the students have already - or will do so in the future - the following:
* learn about raptors - what is a raptor? what features do they have? how are they related?
* make posters for a "bake sale" to raise money for raptors at Leslie Science and Nature Center - what information is necessary for the poster? what can we do to make our posters "pop" and to be interesting to passersby?
* present information about the various raptors at LSNC to the whole school during Morning Meeting
* make the treats to sell - what do birds like to eat? prices?
* sell the treats - collecting money, making change, using good manners
As you can see, this is a pretty well-rounded project, including reading, writing, illustrating, oral presentation skills, science, and math. Most of all, the children are completely engaged and EXCITED about the project - you should hear them discuss the different raptors and why they want a specific one (spoiler: I don't think it is going to be the glorious turkey vulture).