Proctor’s STEAM Family Night
The sleepy little town of Proctor VT, is making some big waves when it comes to showcasing their students’ STEAM achievements. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) is a hot topic in school innovation right now, and rural towns like Proctor are primed and ready to show their communities just why STEAM matters so much to students.
Reflect, celebrate and plan
Oh, the spring. Such a busy time for teachers.
There are all those transition meetings, already getting ready for the next year. Then there are placement meetings, figuring out who will be in what class, core or group. And of course, all those ceremonies, exhibitions, and spring events.
It’s easy to forget all of the progress you have made with your students and as a school during these times. And it’s easy to get frustrated and to focus only on what you have to do next.
Your class, your community and the progress your school has made matters. And they should be celebrated.
How do project-based learning and makerspaces fit together?
Making and PBL may look like two completely different educational movements, but in reality they work well together and each strengthens the other.
That’s because they share a common fundamental underpinning: they honor students’ innate curiosity about the world.
VR’s real world impact on students
Virtual reality is exciting and many of our students are already using this technology in gaming (as some were quick to tell me). So why aren’t we using it more in education?
Maybe we just need some ideas on how to use VR in education. So let’s start by looking at virtual reality in project-based learning (PBL).
This is Real World PBL
Now we’ve been down the PBL highway, looking at PBL planning, entry events, supports for PBL, culminating events, and technology tools. It’s time to examine at what PBL looks like when educators stop being polite and start getting real: this is PBL in real classrooms.
Let’s start with Courtney Elliott’s fourth and fifth grade class at Proctor Elementary School in Proctor, Vermont. Elliott’s first PBL unit was designed to teach students how to do PBL, while also addressing Next Generation Science Standards. She tiered her approach to build responsibility in the project and to provide supports on the way.
Honor scholars with an authentic audience for their work
The culminating event! It’s the lovely finish line of a Project-Based learning unit. The big event. You’ve been planning for months for this event that celebrates the projects and the learning in an authentic, community based forum. All along, it’s been a strong motivator for scholars, grounding the relevant work they’ve been doing.
So. What does it look like to pull off a memorable and meaningful culminating event for project-based learning?
Signs along the way
Assessments can be hard to create and manage, but they are a necessary part of PBL. You can do it!
Assessments are often done with the elements of Understanding by Design : beginning with the end in mind.
Here are some ideas for how to use assessment — both formative and summative — to report to families, inform your practice, and improve student learning.
Ways to support project-based learning
Some people have the mistaken idea that PBL is just when you point students in the direction of a project and say, “Go for it!”
If your students have a culture of doing project-based learning and are very independent, it makes sense to give them a lot of freedom — but that’s just not the case for many of our students.
If you have students who are younger, or need more support and structure here are some ideas and examples. It always makes sense to err on the side of having too many supports rather than too few.
You’ve done an engaging entry event. You have a plan for your PBL unit with a focused driving question. Sweet! Now it’s time for the students to embark on research. But the world of information is a vast wilderness fraught with danger: the danger of misinformation!
Before we can research, we need to brainstorm: What do kids want to do about the driving question and about the entry event? What do they want to see happen?
Start with the dramatic, unexpected & memorable
Q: What do we really want from project-based learning?
A: We want students to care about this subject. To really, truly care about it from their own student perspectives. To engage the active learning parts of their brains and the moral imperative for the work.
Entry events are usually dreamed up during the planning stages of project-based learning. They’re just as much a part of PBL as the research, rubrics, and community connections.
So what can an entry event look like?