Project-Based Learning

 The only thing better than my personal adventures in Experimenting in Education is sharing the experiment.  I am lucky enough to work with a fantastic group of teachers.  Our resident mad scientist at Wabash Middle School is an outstanding progressive educator.  Ryan Evans has enriched our school and profession in general.  He writes the following guest blog about project based learning:
"A huge part of what I do in my classroom is based upon the concept of project-based learning.  Since science itself is a process rather than just facts, project based learning lends itself well to science curriculum. For most project based learning units I start out with a focus question that we answer as a class by the end of the unit.  This question is specific and gives the students a purpose for learning the information since they can apply it to a real world situation.   
As the project progresses through a series of activities (labs, short information sessions, group collaboration, etc.) the students form an answer to the focus question.  The culminating experience for the project is the presentation to show what the students learned answering the focus question.  The presentation can be in various forms such as a multimedia created presentation to models created by more concrete items.  As the students present their information, I ask them specific questions related to focus question to make sure they understanding the concepts.  The grade is assigned using a rubric that they receive before the completion of the project. 
I also like to vary the structure of the projects throughout the year.  For some projects, students present their answer to the focus question to a panel of experts that deal with the problem trying to be solved.  For example, during a project that dealt with water quality of different rivers in the county, the students presented their findings to a group of water quality experts that judged the validity of their work.  For true project based learning I always keep the following constant:
1.     Students work in groups (most of the time assigned by me) learning how to collaborate effectively and how to think critically.
2.     Students create a presentation demonstrating their knowledge of the material by answering the focus question thus demonstrating their 21st century skills through the use of technology." 
I am proud to call Ryan Evans a professional colleague, and fortunate to work with him.  He has been our local expert on project based learning (among other things) in the 7th grade.  Ryan's creativity and dedication have played a major role in the relatively ground-breaking initiatives from our team of teachers.  I look forward to my daughters being in his class.

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