We solve problems every day, from figuring out a faster route to work to deciding what to make for dinner. Project-based learning (PBL) offers students a chance to start actively solving problems, learn through real-life scenarios, and come away with deeper understanding. PBL is a great way to build skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and communication into lesson plans, but getting started can be intimidating since PBL may be a change of pace in your classroom or school district. Here are six key ideas to remember when planning your first projects.
1 - Start small.
Chances are you’ve already incorporated PBL in one way or another—for example, if you’ve ever asked your students to think about a problem in their community or complete a science project. Keep that in mind and don’t be intimidated by complex gadgets. Not all PBL projects need to be high-tech! Get started with simple materials and a specific goal. A soda bottle compost bin or exploring Fall colors is a great way to introduce your students to PBL.
2 - Work smarter, not harder.
Jumping in headfirst with do-it-yourself PBL can be daunting. Get started with existing content to help reduce prep time. Workbench is an online hub offering a robust library of projects that can be used out-of-the-box or tailored by an individual teacher to fit their classroom. In addition to finding project guidance right now, you’ll be able to learn about developing future projects for your classroom, school, or school district that fit seamlessly into the everyday curriculum.
3 - Ask questions.
Maybe you’re considering the first PBL project in your school or even your school district. That doesn’t mean you’re alone! In addition to starting small to build your comfort level, make sure you take advantage of the online PBL resources and community. Once you have a project or two under your belt, you’ll likely have advice of your own to share.
4 - Fit PBL in with your goals.
You might think of STEM subjects first when PBL comes to mind, but project-based learning isn’t just one thing. From social studies to literature, PBL can fit all classrooms. Maybe your students can follow this school’s lead and consider how to increase the popularity of reading in their community. PBL is another tool in an educator’s kit.
5 - Team up.
Consider collaborating with colleagues to develop projects and plans. You’ll create an opportunity to learn from one another and start establishing a PBL knowledge-base in your own school or district. Education specialists at Workbench work with school districts to create customized product bundles, including lessons and professional development, for coordinated purchases.
6 - Make mistakes.
Sometimes things go wrong or just don’t turn out as expected. Luckily the point of PBL is solving problems and learning from them! A project that doesn’t go as planned isn’t a failure, it’s an opportunity to grow. Workbench can provide training in using 21st Century tools to ensure success with PBL in the classroom.
PBL is a hands-on way to infuse 21st Century Skills into any curriculum and, keeping a few things in mind, it can be easy to step into a first project. With a growing PBL community including educators, online networks, and companies focused on assisting with PBL, now is a great time to try it out!