9 Dec
2015
Posted in: parenting
By    Comments Off on Project-Based Learning: My Favorite Way to Learn

Project-Based Learning: My Favorite Way to Learn

I’m not a teacher, but I am in my eighth year of having at least one child in the public school system. I’ve witnessed a wide-range of teaching styles and been bombarded with acronyms. I firmly believe schools should give parents acronym cheat-sheets to aid parents in understanding what educators are talking about. There are styles of learning my kids are drawn to more than others. Currently, we’re immersed in project-based learning or PBL.

My kids are energized by PBL which correlates directly to how we parent in our home. Projects with room for input, clear goals and tangible results is my preferred learning style. I enjoy learning while actively doing. Our kids thrive in an environment where language arts, math, science and social studies are working together for a common goal. The idea behind  PBL, as defined by my 7th grader, is using problem solving skills on a real-world problem and applying what has been learned in a practical manner. The concept of being rewarded by real change motivates my kids.

ceramic poppies for Wyoming Poppy Project

Two of our sons have been involved this year with larger scale PBL projects. Several of our district art teachers collaborated on the Wyoming Poppy Project loosely based on the London Poppy Project by artist Paul Cummins. Local art students created 1,796 ceramic poppies representing Wyoming soldiers killed during war-time.

The Wyoming Poppy Project was a multi-faceted approach to education. Students learned about the number of conflicts Wyoming soldiers have battled in, as well as the importance of remembering those who died for our country. The poppies will be displayed in the community through the beginning of the new year and are being sold to raise money for Wyoming veterans. It’s a history lesson through art that will end with  tangible aid to those in our community. We’re part of something bigger, and PBL allows students to actively learn that idea.

boy talking on newscast about Tower Garden

Our 13-year-old and more than 200 classmates are currently working on a project to bring Tower Gardens to their school. The towers are aeroponic vertical gardening systems. Students researched the science behind the system, if it’s a sustainable idea for their school and how to secure funding.

Each tower carries a $1,000 cost. They began by writing letters to local businesses looking for sponsors. They’ve included recognition plaques for different levels of giving because even in 7th grade, they understand people like to be thanked. Letters and flyers were written and designed by teenagers. The teachers allowed the students to brainstorm and dream big. They have grand plans to not only provide food for the school but to donate produce to people in need. They’re motivated by wanting to have an impact.

They’ve moved from a letter-writing campaign to hosting a silent auction and several students, including our boy, appeared on a local news morning show before school. Four teens willingly arrived at a news station at 6:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. If that’s not showing motivation, I’m not sure what would.

I’ve listened to our son and his friends articulate their needs in public twice now and am blown away by their presence. During a recent lunch, the kids presented their project and a local bank announced it would sponsor a tower. The excitement on those young faces for what they have started makes me weep. I’m grateful to live in a community that wants to help our youth succeed. It’s one thing for your mom to write a check. It’s another thing entirely when others value your work. Someone listened to them and acted. Helping build confidence and showing teens their self-worth is not a small task.

Sure there’s teenage angst and hormones. They’ll fail along with succeed. Two steps forward, three steps back. This garden project is PBL at it’s finest. Teach them how to inherit this world. Their minds are working and thinking about this world they call home even if they aren’t talking to mom about it. Give them resources, advice when needed and let them go. We watch band concerts and sporting events and cross paths in the mall with the future game-changers.

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