Monday, January 18, 2010

On a Mission with Project-Based Learning

My fifth grade students are beginning a project on space missions and aviation. I have been reading a book called Making Learning Whole written by David Perkins. He uses the metaphor of playing the game of baseball as he relates it to effectively teaching for understanding. He makes a valid point when he talks about baseball players going beyond practice of pitching or batting but being part of a team, running bases, and applying what they have practiced. Players don't just stop there; they play the whole game. What seems to be occurring in many classrooms is the students aren't being led beyond practice to understand how the whole game is played. They practice the skills in isolation but never really see the relevance of how it is important in their lives. Project-based learning allows the students to discover answers to their questions through real world investigation. It is so important for our students to be problem solvers and decision makers. Incorporating skills along the way allows them to see the purpose and function of how they apply in their lives.

I decided to begin with the science curriculum and integrate the grammar and writing skills that need to be covered. I have posted the project on our class wiki where a lot of the work will be a collaborative effort. Independent reflections and essay writing will be expected as well.

The project will be guided by the questions that the students ask about space missions and aviation. There will be several authentic activities along the way to promote critical and creative thinking. I am just excited by the possibilities of the project since there are so many directions it can take, but the goal is for the students to play the whole game for learning.

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