Mission: Projects – Possible and Incredible!
“Okay, so this month’s project is going to be about insects. You can choose whichever insect you like and find out as much as you can about it – and get ready to teach us about it!” said the young teacher.
A class full of eager 7-year-olds started chattering about it. One of the girls immediately thought about her grandfather in Greece, who was a beekeeper – bees, yes – that’s what I’ll do!
And she did research about them in the school library.
And she wrote a letter to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to get more information, after calling Billy Bee, the honey company, who directed her there.
She made posters, cut and pasted, wrote. And learned. And all the kids learned.
Why? Because they searched – mainly on their own…and discovered…and learned by exploring books and pictures and anything they had on hand at that time, in the mid-80s.
Today, we have such a multitude of resources, online and offline, that doing project work with our students can be even more exploratory, accessible, creative, and above all a superb learning experience.
At the school my sister and I own we do Wednesday events around a specific topic and do various projects with our students. Teachers can choose weekly, monthly projects or at whichever frequency they prefer and feel the kids will respond to and enjoy.
Project-based learning is the most effective through research. It can be online or offline: I first take my kids to the library in school or the public one, to have that good feel, to turn the pages of a book, and search and learn even more that way. Online search engines are great and encouraged of course to be used, but I think they should be used alongside offline resources, as sometimes the web can just be the fast and easy solution. It is true that it can save precious time, but it can sometimes be misused or overused – so kids need our guidance on that so that the true meaning of research is not lost and they can be safe and able to filter the multitude of information they get online.
Types of projects:
- Visual projects. Posters with photos and some written prompts, hung around the classroom or school – I love the notion of Visible Learning and making learning visible. The kids can go around and look and read – they can learn a great deal both by creating the projects and exploring the work of their peers.
- Written projects. Handwritten or typed, I allow the students to use their own thoughts in combination with the information they discover and fill their text with pictures and drawings, if they wish.
- Electronic projects. They can create a whole blog or blog post on the topic they have chosen, or even a small website in order to share everything they had learned.
There are so many possibilities out there for students to explore – and so many projects to be created!
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