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February 13, 2020

Project Based Learning at the Elementary Level: Nine Inspiring Examples

By Tom Driscoll (@TomDriscollEDU)

I recently had the opportunity to work with an incredible group of elementary educators from Nauset Schools on Cape Cod.  We capped off our PBL workshop by designing project sketches that the teachers would implement later this school year.  They were so great, I asked the group if they could share their ideas. The teachers generously agreed, and below are their examples of inspiring yet practical examples of project based learning at the K-5 level! 

1: Preparing for a Natural Disaster

Driving Question

How can we, as citizens of a coastal community, prepare for the effects of a natural disaster?

Subject(s)

ELA, Science

Synopsis

After learning about natural disasters around the globe, students will understand and explain how people prepare and cope with the unexpected changes in our world.   What steps would you take to prepare for a major flood on Cape Cod?

Core EdTech Resources

Book Creator, SeeSaw

2: Brewster: Beyond Us

Driving Question

How might we as citizens of Brewster, MA, gain a better understanding of the impact of climate and geographical location on lifestyles by researching other Brewsters in our nation?

Subject(s)

Social Studies, ELA, Science

Synopsis

Students will utilize their background knowledge of climate and geographical location and how it influences lifestyles within a community, to research and inquire how the climate of another Brewster, located in the United States, impacts that area’s lifestyle in ways that are similar and different to ours.

Core EdTech Resources

Book Creator, iMovie

3. Endangered Bees & Pollinator Gardens

Driving Question

How might we as first grade scientists help the endangered honey bee population by designing a garden that will help them thrive?

Synopsis

Equipped with a basic understanding of the life of bees in a bee colony and the impact on the world’s ecosystem, we will research, design and plant a pollinator garden that will attract honey bees

Core EdTech Resources

SeeSaw, iMovie, Shadow Puppet, Book Creator

4: Protecting Ugly Animals

Driving Question

How might we as conservation biologists convince third graders to protect “ugly” animals with a poster because they are important to the ecosystem?

Subject

Science

Synopsis

Students will need to research information on their “ugly” animal. They will then plan out and create a poster to persuade 3rd graders to protect their animal.

5. Freedom: Joining the Patriot or Loyalist Cause

Driving Question

How can we, as colonists, create a speech that will convince other colonists to join the Patriot or Loyalist cause?

Subject

Social Studies

Synopsis

Students will need to know the following information to complete the project:

  • Facts/information related to both sides
  • Persuasive writing skills
  • Characteristics of a leader
  • Understanding the theme of change vs. tradition
  • Oral presentation skills

Core EdTech Resources

iMovie

6: Social Detective Strategies

Driving Question

How can we as social detectives write a book that explains the social skills that are important for a successful classroom community?

Subject: 

Social Skills

Synopsis:

Given previous background in social skills (body and brain in group, size of the problem, whole body listening, flexibility, social filters) and problem-solving strategies, students will use various types of technology compiled in book creator to give 1st graders recommendations on ways to create a successful classroom community by describing various social skills. 

Core EdTech Resources

Shadow Puppet, Book Creator, Chatterpix

7: Garden Restoration 

Driving Question

How can we as a kindergarten community provide water to a currently unsustainable garden bed to help plants thrive?

Subject

Science

Synopsis

Students work together and with the teacher to research water sources they can create with the help of the community to create a sustainable garden. 

Core EdTech Resources

Shadow Puppet, SeeSaw

8: Animals in the Winter

Driving Question

How can you as an animal expert explain to a baby animal how it has to survive in the winter?  

Subject(s):

Science, ELA

Synopsis

Students pick a winter animal and will research how it survives in the winter (hibernate, migrate, or adapt). Students will create a visual model of how their animal survives, digitally publish their writing, and devise a way to explain to a baby animal how and why it has to find a way to survive in the winter.

Core EdTech Resources

Book Creator, Chatterpix, Shadow Puppet, iMovie

9: Creating Extraterrestrial Life

Driving Question

What type of life form could exist on a planet other than our own and what would its characteristics be?

Synopsis:

Students will be equipped with understanding of various planetary conditions, gravity, day/night length,temperature, mineral composition, atmosphere and weather.

Core EdTech Resources

Skype, Flipgrid

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You can join Tom in Montreal this March for his Personalized Learning Strand at the upcoming EdTeachTeacher Innovation Summit.  Learn more here! EdTechTeacher.org/montreal2020