Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why I Love Project Based Learning

We spent our first two weeks of the school year working on a Sundae Project. The project was a huge success on so many levels. I want to share why I found the project, and consistently find Project Based Learning so rich.

From the launch to the debrief students were engaged in this project. We introduced it in a overly serious manor, describing why its important for us to start the year establishing a sense of priorities, structures and processes for projects, habits for successful teamwork, and common language around assessment and assessment practices. We then showed this video and handed out the project summary (and lightened it up)!

In my mind this project exemplified deep learning, and here's why. True, students were only assessed on two Cross Curricular Competencies, Thinking Competency as well as Social and Personal Responsibility, but the learning was so much greater than that. Here were some of the learning highlights for me:
  • Students became better team players, as everyone took a role in their project, and as teams worked on making decisions together
  • Students introduced one another to new collaborative technology as Grade 9's showed Grade 8's how to use Google Drive and Documents
  • Students learned empathy as they planned a sundae menu together. I overheard one fantastic conversation in a group that was divided over whether to serve toppings with nuts or not. Half the group thought they could work around allergies while the other half did not. After some back and forth one student worked up the courage to share a personal story illustrating her point of view. She was persuasive and the group came to an agreement. Excellent decision making!
  • Students were shown a new application of Google Spreadsheets. After a quick workshop on formulas using cell references teams jumped in. Even though tax calculations were presented as an optional challenge many teams went for it.
  • Students demonstrated financial literacy and number sense as they carefully shopped three stores and over 100 options to stretch their budget the farthest in making up their Sundaes. Many teams asked for more options. Teams also had to determine serving sizes and the number of servings per container, and unit conversions were frequently required. 
  • Students came together as a learning community through sharing their ideas and opinions in a non-threatening, fun project
  • One team demonstrated fantastic scientific literacy as they discussed serving sizes, when it was appropriate to use mass, and when it was appropriate to use volume.