From now until Winter Break, the children will be learning about raptors. We started talking about this yesterday, and I was impressed with how much my class already knows. I spontaneously put the word RAPTOR on the board, and told the students how I plan for a project. I think of various subject areas and then try to think of ways to bring in the theme. Hands immediately shot up with ideas! I decided to jot some of them down, and was amazed at how "bought it" they all seemed.
And that's the beauty of teacher-led, student-driven projects - they are real-life, and they have intrinsic motivation to learn tied in. The "teacher talk" word for this is authentic.
Walter recently forwarded an blog post from Buck Institute for Education to the teaching staff here about PBL, or Project Based Learning. Quoting from the blog:
“Fully authentic” means students are doing work that is real to them—it is authentic to their lives— or the work has a direct impact on or use in the real world. The “real world,” by the way, could still be school, which is a very real place for students.
A project can be authentic in four ways, some of which may be combined in one project:
1. It meets a real need in the world beyond the classroom or the products students create are used by real people.
2. It focuses on a problem or an issue or topic that is relevant to students’ lives—the more directly, the better—or on a problem or issue that is actually being faced by adults in the world students will soon enter.
3. It sets up a scenario or simulation that is realistic, even if it is fictitious.
4. It involves tools, tasks, standards, or processes used by adults in real settings and by professionals in the workplace.Student engagement is key, and allowing students to feel like they can have an impact on the world? Priceless.
In the next several weeks, my students will:
* learn about raptors through reading picture books, chapter books, and informational texts
* dissect owl pellets to learn about food chains and webs
* discuss endangered species, specifically how old-growth forests are crucial to the spotted owl - and the pull between the logging community and the environmentalist community (perhaps hold mock debate?)
* research specific raptors at Leslie Science and Nature Center, and why they are there
* make colorful posters explaining the project, and advertising our "Bake Sale for the Birdies"
* give a presentation at a Friday morning meeting in front of the whole school and parent community
* make lots of different items for the bake sale - seeded pinecones, cereal strings, cranberry rings, and so on - decide on prices
* sell items one morning before school, then count the proceeds
* choose one raptor they researched to sponsor
* visit "our" raptor at LSNC in the Spring, and participate in a raptor learning project there