Project-Based Learning from Start to Finish

Go inside Manor New Technology High School, part of the New Tech Network of schools, where an unwavering commitment to an effective schoolwide PBL model keeps both students and teachers motivated and achieving their best. More to this story.

Go inside Manor New Technology High School, part of the New Tech Network of schools, where an unwavering commitment to an effective schoolwide PBL model keeps both students and teachers motivated and achieving their best. More to this story.

Release Date: 5/23/12

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Project-Based Learning: Success Start to Finish (Transcript)

Steven: I was a bad student. Skipped school quite a bit, and I really didn't find education exciting until I got to college, because then I got to control how I was going to learn. My name is Stephen Zipkes, I'm the founding principal Manor New Technology High School, in Manor Independent School District, Manor, Texas. Manor New Tech is a 100 percent project based instruction school. Students at this school not only get the knowledge, but they learn the application, so the knowledge then becomes relevant when they have to apply it to a real world situation.

Mary: I'm super excited about this project about the Hunger Games. My co-teacher, Michael Chambers, he is the expert in history. I sat down with Michael and said, you know what, I think this is how we can fit it in, let's look at your state standards and let's look at my standards and see what is coming up next.

Michael: So what's your standards you're going to be covering in this?

Mary: We're going to do 5A, which is analyzing scenes, 5B, analyzing different characters' moral dilemmas, and this is huge.

Steven: We have no choice on what we teach, really. The state tells us what we have to teach.

Mary: What are yours again, that we're hitting, so I can go ahead and write this out?

Michael: WH 12, history of the student to understand the cause and impact of World War II, describe the emergence and characteristics of totalitarianism.

Mary: We hooked the kids into the project with the entry event. And then we do what's called the knows and the need to knows, and that's where the student will give us a list of things, what do you know about this content, so they go through their prior knowledge and then they talk about what do they need to know, so we're talking about leaving the students breadcrumbs in these entry events, and those breadcrumbs would be like clues. This idea of wait a minute, I kind of-- I've heard this word before, I don't know exactly what that means, so that's a need to know and I'll ask that at another time.

Student: You probably need to include that picture that I had on the research, because we used that in the question for Columbia.

Student: Okay, we done here?

Mary: The process of a project is constantly changing. We have to look at what the students are doing, how they're learning, do we need to go back and do some more scaffolding? Really, if I have a student who is three quarters of the way, or almost done with an entire project, and has not been doing very well, I really step back and wonder, where was I this whole time? Why wasn't I paying more attention to where the student's progress was?

Steven: Our students are averaging 60 projects a year. So they're averaging 60 to 65 public speeches a year. By the time they graduate, over 200 public speeches. They know how to talk.

Student: Right now, my favorite project is called, Create your own Project.

Student: My favorite project this year was in chemistry, and what it was about, we were using chemistry and reactions to create a soda.

Student: It's a video production class, and we're making a kids' show. We're calling it the Dojo Show.

Student: We're learning about spatial diffusion, black death, the Columbian Exchange.

Student: Reactions like double replacement, combustion, things like that.

Student: I like it because it gives me a whole lot of room to be creative.

Mary: You'll notice that we're covering a lot of the state standards that deal with working in groups and how you are giving feedback to each other on content. At the end of the class period, you need to have a complete and finalized presentation. So critical friends will be over on that side, everyone else, continue working on your presentations, and we'll get started.

So this half of the class has been working on a protocol that is called critical friends, where they're getting feedback on their presentations.

Student: We're going to do a skit on our moral dilemma.

Student: Here's our choices. Do we take him back to the Germans so they can kill him, do we attempt to take them to a medical center, so they can heal him and save his life?

Student: Hmm. What should I do? Should I let my country suffer from the lack of resources?

Student: I like the fact that they're doing a skit instead of a PowerPoint or something, because they actually make it interesting and they, like, interact with the audience and everything.

Mary: The, I likes, are just obvious, what do they like about those presentations. The, I wonders, are maybe some clarifying questions that they might have about those presentations.

Student: I wonder why he, like, chose the specific music to go with the presentation? That's what I wonder.

Mary: And the next steps are some-- that's where the critique comes in, some feedback.

Student: Put some more emotion into your speaking, like really sell why you would choose a reason.

Mary: They're going to present their papers, but how they present, it always-- how they present is their choice, but they always do something multimedia.

Of course, we're having presentations this morning. What you should have, each group should have one slip--

Student: As everybody knows, we read the book, "The Hunger Games".

Student: So what is a moral dilemma? It's a situation where all your choices are morally challenging.

Student: Ours was to risk your life to save another.

Student: There's three Jewish prisoners and they escaped from a German concentration camp. Me and Jorge, Abe, and Jeremiah, escaped fine, but our friend, Philiam, is wounded and he will die if he doesn't get help. I can't choose my own selfish desires to keep a friend, then doing what is right and just and letting him go through all that pain. Thank you.

Mary: I'm assessing them on various pieces of the oral communication, like how they organized their ideas, and how they delivered those ideas, what kind of tone they used during the presentation, and any kind of rhetorical strategies they--

Student: I'm more of an independent student, of me grabbing knowledge than someone telling me. I believe it has prepared me to take the state test, because it's a new way of learning and it sticks to you in a way that's different from an oral teaching class.

Mary: When you put them in this setting, then suddenly, it just makes sense to them. They see the potential that they never saw in themselves, and I get excited about my content again, because it challenges me, and when I get excited about my content, they get excited, and when they get excited, it just feeds me more, and it just-- to me, it makes it all worthwhile.


  • Director: Zachary Fink
  • Producer: Mariko Nobori
  • Editor: Daniel Jarvis
  • Associate Producer: Douglas Keely
  • Camera: Mario Furloni, Zachary Fink
  • Audio: Thomas Gorman
  • Production Assistant: Bobby Longoria
  • Graphic Design: Maili Holiman
  • Digital Media Curator: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: David Markus

© 2012 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All rights reserved.

© 2012 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All Rights Reserved

Comments (11)

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Primary school teacher from Trinidad West Indies

I like the idea of PBL. My

Was this helpful?

I like the idea of PBL. My question how best can PBL be used in the Elementry Level? How best can it be done as a whole school?

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