Saturday, February 18, 2012

Transforming Projects to Experiences

Project-Based Learning is a favorite instructional approach within our Multiage Program.  Our attempt, in the beginning, at developing purposeful projects to support science and social studies standards has truly transformed into meaningful EXPERIENCES.  We have learned to let go (a lot) in order to step back and let the students dig into the rich information using the variety of resources at their fingertips.  We have had incredible success thanks to Ann’s choreographed genius.  Students had complete choice during our most recent 3 week unit of focus, and we celebrated their amazing projects with a culminating event in which they had the opportunity to share their new knowledge and teach kindergarten students.  Their excellence was displayed through a variety of individual and partner presentations:  videos, PowerPoints, posters, paragraphs, discussions, experiments, songs, skits, and art.  Diversity, such a beautiful thing!!!

Ann’s masterminded process (supported with Menus created by Laurie Westphal) has allowed our students to learn abstract content in ways which allow direct connections to real-world situations. 

We began our work within the area of Earth and Space Science, focusing on Earth Processes, Soil Formation and the Water Cycle.  Each grade level has a specific set of targets to meet for the Standards Based report card, but the beauty of handing the process over to our students was made evident through the many connections they found within the three topics.  We gathered information, read from books and websites, watched content movies, performed experiments and collected observations within our classroom and outside on the school playground.  Students  created projects that best showcased their learning and at the same time worked together to help others to build a greater understanding.  More importantly, they began transferring the connections and knowledge to new experiences, conversations, and other content areas. 
After our celebration event, we received this email response:
Hey Mrs. B :)  I just saw a sign for a flower shop and it said "WE now sell topsoil!" And I was really happy because I knew what it was! I didn't know what topsoil was before we studied it! I was proud when I saw that sign and knew what is was! Thank you so much for teaching us this! It was a great experience teaching others and physically working on projects because working on projects is learning it and then teaching it tells you that you’re a level 4 and you and Mrs. O pushed me so I could feel like a level 4! Thank you!
We have learned a ton through this process of letting go and allowing THEM to be the gathers of information and the teachers of knowledge. Through project-based learning students develop a depth in their understanding, and they continue to “look” for connections in their daily lives.  They do not just complete a project, they personally EXPERIENCE knowledge.
~Celina and Ann

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