Project-based learning can be transformative for students, teachers and the local community. It takes time to develop an idea, connect it to your state's standards, and pull together all the pieces from resources to technical know-how. That's why it helps to see if your proposal passes the smell test before you spend your next ten prep periods planning a project only to discover that a critical component isn't available. King Middle School teachers had a cool idea for students to study the impact of shipwrecks on the ecosystem, but, as it turned out, there weren't enough sunken treasures to give every student an opportunity for meaningful, independent research.
Here are five questions that King teachers ask themselves before embarking on an expedition:
1. Is the unit of study based upon broad, system-wide concepts?
2. Are there enough specific examples of the broad concepts to give one to each student participating in the unit?
3. Are the resources (local experts, field trip opportunities and written material) required for each student to conduct research on his or her specific example available and developmentally appropriate?
4. Do the broad concepts and specific examples provide rich opportunities for students to represent knowledge in a variety of media?
5. Will the final product allow each student to demonstrate his or her knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, competence in the essential skills of the project, and understanding of the relationship between the broad concepts of the unit and the student's specific example?
Adapted from "Expedition Product Criteria" by David Grant at King Middle School.
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