In project based learning we want our students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers. Our role as teacher and feeder of knowledge switches to that of a coach or facilitator.
The traditional teaching process usually goes something like this:
I provide the students new information or demonstrate a new concept they haven’t learned before.
Next, we do several problems together and then students are expected to go solo and show me what they have learned.
You will see this teaching shift at Hillside Academy as teachers’ roles switch from feeder of knowledge to facilitator or coach during project based learning.
Throughout our Project Lead the Way- Flight, the 2nd and 3rd graders learned about the importance of balance in understanding the forces of flight.
The students had an engineering challenge: Apply your skills and knowledge to test and modify your glider and send cargo to an Island Nation in need of supplies after experiencing a natural disaster. Find a way to carry the most cargo along with the greatest distance.
The students set out with all of their supplies to test multiple ways to configure their airplane with the goal of carrying the most amount of cargo the furthest distance.
It was amazing to watch the kids add or subtract weight to various parts of their plane affecting balance and lift. Students took turns launching their planes to see which part of their plane needed tweaking.
Some would sit for a few moments and ponder their options. Others would keep testing different variations of wings and weight. I noticed some students talking out their problems and possible solutions with their classmates.
As I’m watching this, I begin to appreciate and recognize how natural and engaging project based learning is for our students.
This reminds me of our family trip to Zion National Park over spring break. Our kids hiked and scrambled up a variety of terrain with amazing smooth red rocks and stunning viewpoints. After getting back to our hotel, they wondered how the rocks formed and became so smooth and questioned how was this imposing canyon formed so many years ago.
Many Google searches and interesting conversations followed. Such a delight to watch the wheels turning, and thirst for new knowledge emerge.
This reminds me of the teacher’s role as facilitator and coach during project based learning. We want our children to become explorers, critical thinkers and problem solvers who are intrinsically motivated to learn more, rather than recipients of knowledge fed to them. It was a joy watching our students present their knowledge at our Expos here at Hillside as they become excited and engaged about the learning process.