Project Based Learning (PBL)

Why Project Based Learning (PBL)?

“Today’s students, more than ever, often find school to be boring and meaningless. In PBL, students are active, not passive; a project engages their hearts and minds, and provides real-world relevance for learning.”1

Project-Based Learning is a student-driven approach led by the Buck Institute for Education (BIE).  BIE emphasizes that because students are invested in the learning process, they are able to retain their learning longer than is often the case with traditional instruction.  Students are engaged with robust outcomes as part of PBL.  “In the 21st century workplace, success requires more than basic knowledge and skills.”1 Through Project-Based Learning, students focus on the 4Cs as well as other 21st Century Skills, which, in Douglas County, are just as important as content.

It is important to note that PBL is not just the “projects” that you may have completed in elementary school.  Those “projects” were usually just fancy ways to have students ‘regurgitate’ information.  Instead, PBL invites students to seek out information that they “need to know” in order to design and complete a project they are highly invested in.

Teachers spend hours collaborating with their teams to create planners that are designed to help our students master the district’s World Class Outcomes.  Planners usually begin with an “Entry Event,” which draws students into the topic and compels them to generate “Need to Knows” which are displayed on “Project Boards” in the classrooms.  Students then embark upon learning investigations, which may take multiple weeks to complete. Classes often have speakers come into the building, like 3rd grade’s “I Want to Rock” planner in which each student went home with a rocks and minerals kit created by unearthing their very own minerals.  

More often than not kids are heading out into the community whether it’s to the water reclamation plant (6th grade’s “Whose Water is it Anyway?“ planner), to visit local landmarks and landforms in order to create a brochure about the town for visitors (2nd grade’s “Castle Rock Rocks!” planner), or to Castle Rock itself to examine earth’s materials in order to design a Mother’s Day Gift (1st grade’s “My Mom Rocks!” planner).  Whatever the planner, the school is electrified with the students’ excitement. Just recently we were wowed with 4th grade’s Space Museum that involved black lights, QR codes, iPads, and flashlights in order to view current and “recently discovered” planets and moons.  And next week, field day will feature three new games, each created by a team in 4th, 5th and 6th grade; groups designed, modeled and pitched their games to a committee of parents and administration during P.E.

Project-Based Learning has changed teaching and learning here at Clear Sky for the better.  The time and energy it takes to develop and carry out the planners is well spent when you see the excitement and engagement of our students!