Projects, or deep investigations, will be an integral part of the curriculum at the new Glen Oak and Harrison Community Learning Centers. Project work is never considered a whole curriculum but is another vehicle for approaching curriculum which provides practice in 21st century knowledge and skills. Project learning is centered on the aspects of curriculum which students find most interesting and is characterized by high engagement.
Students at all ages are involved in finding answers to questions that are complex for their age and grade level. Project work emphasizes the need for collaboration and teamwork. A key to project work is interaction with experts and the use of authentic topics. Project work is rich in literacy, mathematics and science skill development. Students discover reasons for learning academic skills. They see why reading, writing, and mastering technology is important. They also have an opportunity to practice the use of academic skills as they do independent research, organize information, and share what they have learned. Project work provides real world application of concepts and skills learned in curriculum experiences.
Project work generally increases motivation to learn and can have a positive effect on the learning environment. Students are energized as they find answers to their own questions and complex problems. Students represent their learning in a variety of ways including preparing reports, writing books and articles, giving speeches, building experiments and models.
Projects are considered part of the experiences that students need to be successful in 21st century. Research in neuroscience and psychology show that knowledge, thinking and doing are inextricably tied. The 21st century learning and working environment will be one where social skills and the ability to operate in the context of a variety of cultures and communities will be important. Learners feed back information and actively use what they know to explore, negotiate, interpret and create solutions to problems with others. Students who can learn to solve problems in schools are more likely to be the creative and collaborative workers we need in the future.
Project work will look different based on the age level of the students. In the earliest experiences, those provided by caregivers and parents, projects will be home projects. Seminars will teach parents how to identify a child’s interest and provide experiences including books which match the child’s interest. Beginning with the pre-kindergarten years, the Project Approach will be used. This method of project work investigates project topics which are nearby and are based on student generated questions. For example, a class may study snakes when a snake is discovered on the playground and a science curriculum goal is understanding the needs of living things.
In the late elementary years (3-5th grade) projects will follow the outline of Problem Based Learning, in which teachers coach student thinking and guide student inquiry, facilitating learning toward deeper levels of understanding while entering the inquiry as a co-investigator.
For more info visit: www.edutopia.org/; www.projectapproach.org/