“How can we protect Hillside Students from getting a sunburn at recess?”
This is the driving question our First Graders will attempt to answer for our Project Lead the Way (PLTW) unit, “Patterns of the Sun, Moon, and Stars”. I bet you didn’t realize first grade students would even give this question a second thought. Keep reading to hear how they will attempt to address this issue.
We launched the unit by asking students the above question and had them to brainstorm ideas, write down these ideas and to make a drawing about their thoughts for preventing sunburns. Next, the kids listened to a story about three students noticing their playground getting too hot in the middle of the day and that kids were getting sunburnt. By the time we listened to this story, students had already learned about the patterns of the sun. Before we move on to learning more about UV exposure, students will also study the patterns of the moon and stars.
After learning about the patterns of the sun, moon and stars, our kids will receive UV beads (change color when exposed to UV light). We will make bracelets and will be able to test UV exposure on our playground. Students will collaborate in small groups and design a model of a shade structure for the playground. The kids will design and test their models before sharing them at the Space and Science Expo on Thursday, June 9th.
The kids are so engaged in this style of learning. It is so much fun and they don’t even realizing how much they are learning.
For myself, the challenging, yet exciting part of the Project Lead the Way curriculum, is the teacher’s role is facilitating a lesson which is really about asking more questions than answering them. This curriculum is not only project-based, but it also utilizes the 4 C’s associated with 21st Century Competencies. These competencies include; Critical Thinking (comparing information, drawing conclusions, making connections), Collaboration (working in small groups, teamwork), Communication (convey ideas with writing/drawing, presenting) and Creativity (turn ideas into action, test, design solutions).
Project Based Learning and 21st Century compentencies are building readiness for our student’s future, including college, careers and the skills of being a responsible citizen. Another positive attribute of this style of teaching is, “In PBL classrooms, students demonstrate improved attitudes toward learning. They exhibit more engagement, are more self-reliant, and have better attendance than in more traditional settings.” (Thomas, 2000; Walker & Leary, 2009)
For more about 21st Century Compentencies, check out www.p21.org (P21 provides resources about defining and implementing the 4 C’s).