Wow. Now that’s a mouthful. I’ve been doing some professional reading lately about project-based learning and interdisciplinary learning. I’ve been wondering about the neuroscience behind how children construct their own learning and am in the middle of an online seminar entitled Deep Play: The Architect of the Brain .
My experiences over the past 15 years of teaching have made one thing abundantly clear: projects are where the MAGIC happens in school. Small or big, solo or collaborative –projects afford learners opportunities to construct, extend, and reinforce ideas like nothing else in school. Teachers know that students engaged in projects are usually more motivated and more creative when they are involved in projects. When I reread my last sentence, I noticed something: ENGAGED in projects, INVOLVED in projects. The very nature of a project is interactive and meaningful. You can’t passively watch a project or hear a project. Projects require learners to make something with materials or with others. They are also interdisciplinary, that is, they combine different disciplines, mathematics, language, science, or music, for example.
Have a look at this graphic from Jackie Gerstein about interdiscipinary learning:
Why aren’t we allowing children to spend more time on projects if they afford children all these benefits? Each of these benefits can be found in nearly every mission statement, action plan, and policy written for schools today. We WANT these benefits for our children.
New curriculum resources from the past few years focus more on projects. But it is ultimately up to individual teachers to incorporate project-based learning into their practice.
Still reluctant to take the leap? Here is what I can tell you from first-hand experience with project-based, interdisciplinary learning in Kindergarten:
Making is at the heart of many projects. Whether children are making books, towers, car garages, games, snow forts, stories, variety shows, invitations, puppets, paintings, or anything really, in their minds, it’s a project. When you let them follow their passions and offer support and encouragement along the way, you will not believe some of the extraordinary things they can create. Prepare to be amazed.
If you listen carefully, and document their projects through photos and videos, and then not only look at the documentation but look at it with the children, you will begin to notice that they are uncovering many outcomes, not just for this grade, but also from the grades ahead. That list of outcomes is going to start to feel a little less overwhelming, especially when you realize that they are able to learn many of them without you. Prepare to be less stressed.
Inquiry happens naturally, when children wonder about the world. Honour their wonderings and give them materials to experiment with. Share their findings and their journeys and wonder aloud yourself. Inquiry tends to be highly contagious so prepare to be surrounded by many little scientists.
Collaboration can’t be forced and the value of it isn’t learned by everyone at the same time. When children finally understand the power of collaboration, it’s an understanding they carry with them throughout their lives. Prepare to be patient.
My goal for 2019 for my teaching practice was to ask children more often what they are passionate about or what kind of a project would they like to do.
What’s your goal for 2019?
How about a project?
Dedicated teacher for the past 18 years. Lifelong learner. Newbie blogger. Follow me on Twitter @Baker1973Cathy