Top 10 PBL News Stories

Mar. 20-24, 2017

Each Friday we post a list of articles, blog posts, research studies, and other resources we’ve run across that relate to Project Based Learning.

Here’s what we liked this week:

Profile of a Graduate
EdLeader 21
What does it take for students to succeed in college, career, and life? That’s the driving question for this campaign to encourage school districts to create a “Profile of a Graduate,” use a customized “Action Guide” to put it into practice, and share their work with others. Sign up now!

The Fallacy of Failure
ASCD InService
Veteran Los Angeles middle school teacher Robert Ward takes on the “failure fanatics” and suggests we shift our thinking instead to “struggles, setbacks, snags, and stumbles, as well as shifts and switches ….common and necessary parts of growth.”

Celebrate Students Successes and Failures
World Leadership School
You’ve probably heard of the classic “egg drop” activity to teach physics, where students construct devices to protect an egg in a fall? Here’s a great story from the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee that explains how 5th grade teacher Jonathan Reveal made this a true PBL experience, by incorporating the Gold Standard PBL elements of critique and revision and reflection in the design process, plus authenticity—with a visiting expert and a connection to bike helmet safety.

Starting Out with Project Based Learning
Getting Smart
Teacher Rachelle Dene Poth tells how she advanced from “doing projects” to high-quality PBL, by giving her students more voice and choice of authentic questions of personal interest to investigate. She shares some lessons learned, such as “Design Thinking and a readiness to iterate are important for both teachers and students.”

21st Century Collaboration Challenge
Here’s a cool thing: This small game design group in Redwood City, CA is creating game-based assessments of collaborative problem solving, with funding from the Hewlett Foundation. Teachers can register now to enter their class in the next qualifying rounds.

The Kids Are All Right
Education Week Teacher
Nancy Flanagan reports on some very innovative programs full of examples of rich, rigorous projects that are also captured in a new book that sounds good, Capturing the Spark: Inspired Teaching, Thriving Schools, by David Cohen. Love her takeaway: despite what people might hear in the media, there are plenty of great things happening in public schools (and not only in high-income zip codes).

Rock On! How I Taught Focus to a Class That Wouldn't Sit Still
Ok, so I included this because I love rock sculptures—looking at them, not making them—and because it would make a great activity to help build a PBL culture at any grade level. Teacher Natalie Catlett, faced with a class of overly-energetic first graders, had a fantastic mindfulness-inspired idea that really worked: have the students build rock sculptures. Lots of lessons learned about focus, collaboration and teamwork, critique and revision, perseverance, and balance (and the properties of rocks!).

Elementary students receive awards for future airplane design
San Diego Union-Tribune
Engineers from UTC Aerospace Systems – Aerostructures, formerly known as Rohr, worked with 6th grade math students to design airplanes of the future, resulting in some super-creative ideas that were made public in Rohr’s cafeteria so employees could vote on them.

Students recommend remedies for stormwater runoff
Consortium for Public Education
Two school districts in Pennsylvannia, in partnership with the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, asked high school students to tackle a PBL project to reduce storm water runoff on their campuses. Students worked with local experts and made presentations of their recommendations, and noted that it “changed how we’re learning.” Teachers said, “the experience changed the way they normally teach.”

Smartphone Addicts: A Project-Based Learning Activity
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association
This is an oldie (from 2014) but a goodie I just heard about via Twitter that would certainly engage middle and high school students today. These adult students were highly engaged in a project that promoted speaking English outside of class: a “Smartphone Survey Project” where they conducted a survey to gather data on how people used their smartphones, comparing groups and types of use and presenting their findings with Prezi and other presentation software.


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