It is important to focus on nontrivial ideas if we want to advance important student learning. We have identified some of the most fundamental ideas within the following content areas:
These are ideas that surface over and over as students’ expand their knowledge. They constitute some of the knowledge and skills around which mini-lessons should be built if students lack necessary knowledge during implementation of a project. Along with the list of important ideas, each section contains a few tips for strengthening knowledge.
Long lists of topics often obscure what is truly critical within a discipline, the ideas and skills that are the foundation for building other knowledge. When planning projects, consult the lists and target an area from which students can get a lot of mileage.
One of these examples may be appropriate for a first attempt or may be adaptable to your situation. Think about opportunities for students to use ideas that are really important within a discipline, are used often and can be built on and expanded. Collect copies of successful projects developed for your program so you can build a library of resources that others can use or adapt.
When planning your projects, don’t forget your community. Assistance for projects can come from a variety of sources:
- Restaurants will supply menus.
- You may be able to get donations of old newspapers and books that libraries are discarding because of age.
- Stores that publicize donations to schools may be willing to donate to after-school programs.
- Craftspeople and professionals may be willing to share what they know or pose a problem that students could investigate.
- Many companies ask employees to give service time to the community—get on their lists.
We have provided a list of websites that you can visit to find additional plans for projects. There are many options but not all are of equal quality. It is easy to fall into the trap of selecting a project that is great fun but has little substance. Our recommendation is to connect to the regular school staff and first figure out what areas the school is highlighting that might be beneficial to work with. Then target your search or project creation.
Much that is posted online is worthy, but much is not. We urge you to:
- be purposeful about what you look for;
- be a careful reader of what any project entails;
- assess projects for how your students can or cannot apply knowledge and skills they are learning; and
- look at cost and availability of materials and resources.
Professional networking site designed for and by educators. Ning allows users to create groups, find colleagues and start and respond to discussions.
Edutopia: The George Lucas Educational Foundation website
Offers multimedia resources that demonstrate the potential of project learning.
Global Education Collaborative
Professional networking site designed for and by educators. This Ning collaborative fosters conversation and collaboration around global awareness in teaching and learning.
Teacher-developed projects to provide staff with resources to enable them to carry out projects wherever they may work.
Project-Based Learning Online
Incorporates the research-based model developed by the Buck Institute for Education. www.pbl-online.org
Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE)
Promotes hands-on science education worldwide. Some projects involve taking scientifically valid measurements in fields such as atmosphere, hydrology, soils and land cover.
A clearinghouse for collaborative projects from around the globe.
iEarn (International Education and Resource Network)
The world’s largest nonprofit global network that enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.