Monday, March 20, 2017

Projects and Problem Solving

A common question from students is "when am I going to use this in real-life?" It is nearly impossible to take the knowledge in your head and directly import it into a child's long term memory. One way we create an environment of higher level learning is through project based learning activities. In PBL students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex problem or challenge.  This model helps make learning relevant to students by establishing connections to life outside of the classroom, addressing real world issues, and answering that question, "when am I going to use this?"

We've been using this model in our 6th grade classroom for the past science unit. We've been learning about the Earth's weather system and it's effect on human life. Over winter break, students collected data on the weather including: temperature, wind, and precipitation. When we returned to school, students were given a situation. The board of directors for the "local" airport was seeking their help to solve some of the problems that employees have brought forward. One of the major problems was that the work uniforms for the employees that worked outside on the runways, were not appropriate for the climate of the region.

The solution to this problem required students to research, experiment, and present their information in a professional way. Students compiled their knowledge through researching the effects of extreme weather on our health and how to protect ourselves. They also experimented with how certain fabrics react to hot, cold, and wet environments. They combined this data with their weather data from earlier in the year to design an outfit appropriate to the climate they recorded.

This situational problem and project based learning gave students a goal to work towards and allowed them to focus their learning and see how an application of their knowledge would actually be presented.

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