“So, what did you do in school today?” asked Mom.
“Well, I made a sandwich, built a boat, and designed a travel brochure,” answered a Hillside Middle School student.
“That sounds like fun,” replied Mom, “but did you learn anything?”
As a middle school teacher, I can assure you the answer is YES! Our students are learning grade level content through compelling study, research, and most importantly, hands on experiences using project based learning (PBL). In fact, PBL has been proven to help students learn and retain more, as well as having a higher level of ownership in their learning. PBL is integrated throughout our core classes including Language Social Studies, Science, Math, and Arts.
We have just completed our second Expo of this school year: What compels people to travel beyond their personal world? In this Expo, students explored this guided question through researching core content.
5th & 6th:
Our 5th and 6th grade classes were asked the question: “What compelled Europeans to colonize America”? They learned the common core standards of this time period, then took it step further in exploring what compelled individuals to make that risky and costly journey across the Atlantic Ocean to settle in a new world? Our study included answering the basic questions of who, what, when, where, with the question of “why” being the focus of our study. PBL incorporates 21st Century Skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, and a real life experience. Students were required to adopt the identity of travel agents, opened a travel agency, created compelling travel brochures for each colony, and then had to convince visitors at the Expo to sign-up with their travel agency. They had to rely on their knowledge of each colony, what to expect when settling there, and the focus or intent of each settlement when trying to persuade visitors to sign-up with their agency.
7th & 8th Grade:
Hillside 7th and 8th grade students are studying the country of the Philippines with the guiding question: “What compels people to want to travel to the Philippines”? To explore this country with the focus of compelling others, our class started a publishing company and are currently in the process of writing a Travel Guide Book to the Philippines. As they study their five regions (students studied the geography and divided the country into five regions), they are researching seven facets of this fascinating country. Their completed travel guide will be published prior to several of our students taking a two week trip to visit the Philippines in April, 2016.
Who says learning can’t be fun? With hands on experiences where students explore grade level content, learn, research, and produce hands on real life projects, we can’t help but have fun!
To read more on the academic benefits of PBL and 21st Century Skills click on the following links: