George Lucas Educational Foundation

Project-Based Learning for Primary Grades

Project-Based Learning for Primary Grades

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Hello! First of all, I'd like to say that I am thrilled to have discovered Edutopia groups. Finally, a group of teachers who are inherently interested in improving their teaching practice and sharing what they know. I am very excited to learn more from all of you! OK, now my question - I am very intrigued by the thought of PBL as a perfect strategy to differentiate content for my students. I have not seen a great deal of information on how to plan projects in a primary level classroom. I am currently teaching 2nd grade (thinking about moving up next year). I would LOVE to hear some ideas from teachers who have tried PBL in their own classrooms! Some of the topics that I could use for projects are: life cycles, rocks and fossils, producers and consumers, simple machines, ancestors. Thank you! Kim :)

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Kim's picture

Hi, I'm actually Kim#3, and I was looking for ideas for projects for my 2nd graders when I discovered your post. I am very interested in seeing examples of your student work and how you set it up. My classroom theme is the farm and I'd like to use your driving question!

KLS's picture

Hi! I am new to PBL and want to implement it into my 5th grade classroom. I am currently looking into projects dealing with the human body for science, or anything with Explorers in social studies. I feel like I have the idea down but would feel much better if I could see some examples of whats been done before. Thank you for any help and ideas. :)

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

That's sort of the eternal question. :-) Edutopia says Project, but others have different perspectives. This is a great examination of the whole question:

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

The human body is a really popular topic for PBL projects. The best ones that I've seen (and I should mention that I haven't tried any of the ones I'm about to recommend to you) set out an interesting challenge to encourage students to think more deeply about the human body. For examples of the human body (and a lot of other science based PBL projects), you can try here:

Regarding the explorers, again, I've seen some incredible approaches. My favourite was one that combined a games-based approach with PBL to create a truly memorable experience for students. Another example, which is really more of a web quest, but might help you get some ideas, is here:

Guest's picture

hi I am Annie, Primary teacher learning about P.B.l I am also searching for some good activities for project based learning. I was thinking to take animals as my topic for p.b.l please suggest something good to me too.

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Any science unit will lend itself well to PBL. I tend to like local connections and to have the unit integrated throughout the curriculum. When I've done PBL with animals in primary grades I've always looked for something that had a local connection to make it more real for my students. For example, we have black bears in NH, so one year we did an extensive unit on bears. I extended our learning to include bear safety and the impact humans had on bears. That resulted in student letters to the newspaper editors around the state about how people should be bear aware and prevent human/bear interactions. Another year we did a research project on various mammals. We went to a local nature center and took pictures and studies animal mounts, then did research on the animals in the classroom. In art class we made the animals out of clay and created habitats for those clay animals. We learned to move like those animals in PE class. As a culminating activity the students created plays about the animal's first years of life.


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