Project Based Learning

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  1.  Determine the project. Consider the standards to be covered in the grade level, relevance and purpose to the lives of the students, and interest-based where the students can make choices to focus on what most interests them. Begin with the end in mind (sample planning document 1 and sample planning document 2) of what you want the outcome to be. The following are some of the projects I have implemented in the classroom:
  • Space Aviation and Missions:  
    • broad topic- students chose their own subtopics
    • science, reading (interpreting info), English curriculum
  • Civil Rights:
    • specific topic chosen by teacher
    • social studies, reading (interpreting info), English curriculum
  • Bullying:
    • specific topic chosen by collaborating teachers (Memphis, PDS, Taiwan)
    • humanities (global project)
  • Going Green:
    • specific topic chosen by teacher
    • sustainable project (improving our world) not part of 5th grade curriculum


  1.  Establish the conceptual framework of how the content relates to the lives of the student. This is what promotes inquiry and where they see relevance and purpose in what they are learning. Inquiry happens with connection. The following are the themes of the project I have implemented in the classroom.
  • Space Aviation and Missions
    • empathy: failed missions, loss of lives, pushing the limits where we haven’t gone, etc.
    • design thinking: find a problem to solve a problem) PBL Civil Rights (fairness and equality)
  • Civil Rights
    • fairness
    • equality
  • Bullying
    • Human Rights
    • fairness
    • empathy
  • Going Green
    • needless wasting
    • hurts environment

Have students to reflect on their own lives regarding the concepts and how they would act under certain circumstances (failing, not be treated equally or fairly, being wasteful when so many people in the world go without food).

  1.  Determine the guiding question.  This is the focal point of the entire project and can be broad or specific; it can be written by the student or the teacher depending on the goal.  This is to promote inquiry and create divergent thinking where the students can generate many different ideas about a topic.
  • Space Aviation and Missions:
    • questions were developed by the students (questions)
    • Interest-based (boys grouped according to guiding question they wanted to explore)
  • PBL Civil Rights:
    • question was developed by the teacher What can I learn about the past Civil Right’s struggles to help resolve issues that still exist today?
    • interest-based (boys chose whether they wanted to explore women’s rights, children’s rights, disability, ethnicity)
  • Bullying:
    • question was developed by the teacher: What are the negative impacts of bullying in our society and what can I do to prevent it?
    • interest-based (boys decided their own web-based project to create that would educated others about bullying)
  • Going Green:
    • specific topic chosen by teacher
    • question was developed by the teacher: What can we do about PDS waste to help reduce the problems it poses to our world?
    • interest-based (boys decide their own project of focus regarding improving PDS waste


  1.  Brainstorming the topic: The students watch United Streaming and Discovery videos to engage them in the topic they will explore.  They reflect by completing a thinking routine Think/Puzzle/Explore and sharing 2 facts and an open-ended question for each video. This is where I teach them how to write open-ended questions that are researchable and can lead to further questions which is part of the inquiry process.
  • Example of Going Green
  1.  Form Collaborative Teams: As much as possible, I group according to interest because that creates a learning environment where each student will give 100% of his effort.  They will own and take responsibility of their learning.
  1.  Problem-solving Research Process Begins: (if it’s problem based, design based,  learning)
  • Guide for problem solving
    • during this stage of the process the following can/will occur:
      • new questions are formulated and explored
      • take a new direction after researching due to new interests or ideas
      • try something different or take a new approach because what was being done wasn’t working
      • the experience of failure or difficulty moving forward
      • reflection of what has been learned (this solidifies understanding)
  • Weigh the pros and cons and make a final decision.
  1.  Design and create final product: This includes a design or redesign of a prototype, a technology presentation that shares research and discoveries, a website, etc.