George Lucas Educational Foundation

Project Ideas

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I am moving to an Expeditionary school (EL) in the fall of 2013. I teach chemistry and need some ideas for project based learning. Let me know if you have any ideas or resources you can direct me to. Thanks.

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Maryam's picture

Hi Whitney
I need some new ideas that I can use in creative learning and some new ideas about making students to learn thinking. I need to know how can I make students to think philosophically. I want to have some new ideas that I can research about them in my project.
Thank you for your attention

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Maryam!

If you are thinking about chemistry, what's better than to teach kids about chemistry than through cooking? Cook's illustrated has great articles about why you have to use cold butter, for example, to get a tender pie crust or why using a certain technique when cooking pasta works best. These demonstrate all sorts of principles abut osmosis, starches, osmosis, dissolving, precipitates and more. By helping kids do something fun (cooking) and demonstrating the science and chemistry behind it at the same time, you could have a perfect PBL based project, adjustable for different age ranges. You can actually even ask deeper questions about everything from how baking bread, and letting bread rise brought communities together and away from nomadic lifestyles, etc. Cross curricular implications as well!

That's just an off the top of my head idea- do you just want chemistry or other subjects as well? This is a fun brain storming topic!

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

While I love the idea of combining cooking and chemistry, Maryam mentioned in another thread that she teaches Philosophy. :-)

You know what might be an interesting idea? To have the students write a choose-your-own-adventure book. The premise behind these kinds of books is that the reader makes choices as they read that affects the progression of the story.

For example, the heroine can choose to give money to a beggar or ignore the beggar. One choice takes them to page x, the other to page y, and the story moves on from there. Another option would be a play with audience participation making the choices.

As part of the project, the students would have to explain the moral and philosophical underpinnings of the choices. I've not seen this done before, but it would be an interesting idea to examine.

Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate

You might be inspired by project ideas from Luann Lee, a chem teacher and PBL advocate. For example, read about a project in which her students addressed odor from a local paper mill:

As an Expeditionary Learning teacher, you'll have the benefit of working with colleagues who are designing projects that focus on community issues. I'm always inspired by browsing the EL project library:

Good luck, and let us know about the projects you launch this year.

Michelle's picture
Gr.3 teacher from Georgetown, ON

I am looking for some PBL ideas that would work in a Grade 3 class. I am new to PBL and need a starting point. Does anyone have a comprehensive list of good resources to start PBL in my class?

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Michelle- Thanks for coming by!

I found these resources geared towards PBL in 3rd grade: (3rd Grade film festival) - try this one-

A PBL School talking about their theme for the year with examples:

A great Pinterest page with lots of ideas:

Let me know if you need something more specific or if this is enough to get you started- I think the pinterest page may be helpful as an "idea board" and the other resources more about the process and products where PBL is already in use.

Michelle's picture
Gr.3 teacher from Georgetown, ON

Hi Whitney,
Thank you so much for this valuable information. I so appreciate it!! I've checked out some of the information already and it looks great!!!!
thanks again.

Kimberly's picture
Seventh grade math and science teacher from California

I'm looking for pbl Ideas for seventh grade life science! And suggestions welcome

Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate

Hi Kimberly,
Life science is such a big topic! Narrowing the focus to a couple of key standards can be a good first step in project planning.
To get you thinking about project approaches, here are just a couple projects that explore microbiology and composting:
--Soil Superheroes:
I've seen some great projects where students investigate and improve the quality of local watersheds, turn their campuses into wildlife habitats, or contribute observation data on bird migrations as citizen scientists.
Let us know what aspect of life science you're focusing on, and we'll recruit more ideas for you from the Edutopia community.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Kimberley!

Our local MS does a couple of great PBLs with the students- One is a project where the kids take pictures of objects around their house/life etc. and make analogies to the parts of the cell- for example, the refrigerator is like the mitochondria because it helps provide fuel, etc. The kids like this project and it also helps them demonstrate mastery of concepts while making analogies, comparisons, arguments, etc. all great skills. It's a little more interesting than a typical model of a cell, and not so difficult that it becomes a parentally-coached event either.

That said, I have seen some great models- Harvard has some animations with their biovisions groups that actually try to visualize the molecular interactions and create animations of them- its interesting- you should check them out here-

I could see someone trying to "make" a version of a ribosome or of protein manufacture as a project and learn a lot about it in the process- more than just an arts and crafts thing. The key in all of this is trying to make sure the understanding and learning is key, and the method makes sense and doesn't overly complicate things.

True inquiry based PBL starts with a big and sometimes novel question to work on-while i think there is always something that will work, making sure kids have a basic understanding of things like cell biology is important, too, in order to then be able to ask and answer big questions- what kind of challenge are you thinking of setting for them?

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