George Lucas Educational Foundation

Observations on PBL Projects

Observations on PBL Projects

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
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Expanding on and reviewing what I had posted on Edutopia FB, I see that a good project would be one that everyone has some success and then the chance to creative. The foam plate glider (FPG-9) worked well for me in those apsects. Projects that are too fragile require too much time from the instructor repairing which I have found with some of my balsa wood model airplane classes. It is ideal if you have enough tools for everyone or there is minimal sharing. If students try to jump ahead too far in projects they mess things up and they need help re-doing. You can try to explain everything ahead of time, but many will not listen. Projects with large classes and not enough help could be disasters I would think. The costs for materials for large groups could quickly get out of hand also. Do not assume anything is too simple, everyone comes into some classes with different backgrounds. I found kids that had so much trouble tying a basic knot. I have heard of engineering students that have never soldered and have trouble trying to build a robot in college. Just some of my opinios, would like to hear others. Bill Kuhl

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Victoria Laster's picture
Victoria Laster
Fourth Grade Teacher in Hernando County Florida; 3 years experience

This year I will be working in an inclusion classroom and have yet to meet the teachers I will be working with. I am moving from teaching fourth grade to moving to a support, or coteach situation in second grade. I hope to be able to meet with them before school begins. The PBL is new to our school and most of us are very excited to be able to teach this way. I agree that a shorter project, or a series of shorter projects would be the most effective for the teacher, me, and for the students.

Some ideas I have include testing of some of the different substances that have been presented for collecting the oil that has surfaced on the gulf. I am in Florida just north of the Tampa Bay area.

Bill Kuhl's picture

Jane, my experience was from a summer program for grades 5 to 8, 12 students. I called the class "Engineering Through Models", they built a foam plate glider, a model solar car, and a mousetrap car. This is a hobby for me, I work in IT. And then I try to promote science education through my website and having a booth at local activites.

Bill Kuhl

Jane Neuenschwander's picture
Jane Neuenschwander
Teaching elementary education courses to undergrads at WJU


Let me suggest a couple good NASA links for curriculum designed to be used in what we call "informal education."


On the Moon Activity Guide

These have great ideas and the activities can be done with inexpensive materials that students can bring from home in many cases.

See what you think of these materials,

Bill Kuhl's picture

Jane, NASA sure provides a wealth of free materials, they really have some nice videos, I have links to them on Podcast section of my website. The project links you sent sure are well done, not sure how well everything would work in practice. Water rocket launchers I think are tough to make as it is hard to handle the pressure. I purchased the more expensive Pitsco launcher and it works good, the cheaper one they sell starts leaking for me at about 10 psi. The air rocket launcher appeared to be a rather complicated construction project. The balloon and straw rockets should work fine. NASA also has simulated programs for model rockets and kites. I haven't spent the time to figure the operation of the programs yet.

The kids sure like the water rockets and if you have a launcher, the rockets are cheap to build.

Bill Kuhl

Ellen Feig's picture

I am planning a PBL on suburbia and would like a cross disciplinary team. Any interest?

Carolyn Olson's picture

I teach K-12 Visual and Media Art which is consistently project based. I also work in an afterschool STEM program geared for 3-10th graders applying hand's on approach to Science, Math and English through Theatre, School Newspaper and graphic novel production, sculpture (earthquake engineering), drawing/painting, printmaking, poetry, computer programming and robotics. I believe it is best to work through the "many possibilities" out there, rather than teach students that there is "only one answer". Even in Math there are "many paths" to the correct answer. A suggested site for hand's on engineering is City Technology ( Gary Bennison is fantastic. He began with The Algebra Project ( and then went on to develop the City College program. Unless all students are able to move from design and theory to construction and application they are unable to be part of our democracy. We all need to be part of the ever-changing question and answer process. With all of the cuts to the arts (music, theatre, dance, visual and media art) students are finding less room to move. The problem solving has to come through trial and error in a safe and trusted environment where teachers are willing to "not know everything" but still can comfortably control the classroom.
C Olson

Bill Kuhl's picture

Carolyn, Thanks for your comments, you must be very busy teaching in all those areas. I really enjoyed looking at the City Technology link and it has given me ideas. I am working on a construction article for an easy and cheap to build mousetrap car. For this construction article, I decided that I can not make it too simple. There will be pictures of all the steps and even where to find the materials in the stores. Hopefully this will be on my website within the next two weeks.

Bill Kuhl

Sheri Haught's picture

I find I do more teaching when students are assigned projects! I guide them and interact more with individuals and they enjoy it so much more. They use higher level thinking skills, the learning is more rigorous as well as relavent, test scores on standardized tests go up (according to research), and I love to see their faces as they learn and discover things that interest them - things they never knew they would ever think about! Then they do the rest of the teaching - my students always present their finished project. The creativity!! Each child finds a way to do their project that shows their strengths and individuality - self esteem goes up noticeably and the other students visibly appreciate each other in ways I never thought possible. They learn to accept each other. And most of all, they are learning how to learn - if they have an interst or need later in life, they will have the tools to investigate and find out things. I don't just children or a subject - I teach children how to learn, which is a life-long skill that they will take with them much better than the rote facts I can 'teach' them without projects!
Sheri Haught

Bill Kuhl's picture

Hi Sheri, interesting comments. It does seem that students remember the projects more later in life and not the tests they had taken. Just looked at your profile for age groups and it showed kindergarten, that wasn't the age group you used PBL with?

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