Integrating Project-Based Learning
Today during class I was asked why I was so gung-ho about transformative education if I continue to insist that I really don’t want to go into education. I knew the answer immediately, but also knew that I had been telling people the wrong thing.
It’s not that I don’t want to go into education, it’s that I don’t necessarily want to be a teacher or an administrator. I’m a constant advocate for education because I do care about our education system and about where it’s currently going, especially when my fiancé and I are already planning on having kids someday. When that day comes, I want my children to be able to grow up in an education system that works with them instead of against them, a system that isn’t incredibly broken and will actually make learning enjoyable for them.
I suppose that’s just one reason why I want to attempt to put transformative education into schools in any way possible. There’s so many little things that transformative education does for kids to help them learn better, yet almost no one knows what those things are, or even what in the world transformative education is. There’s a pretty extensive list of ways that transformative education is helpful for kids and teachers, but I’m only going to focus on one today since I personally feel like this is the main component: project-based learning.
Photo cred.: Zulama.com
Project-based learning is pretty self-explanatory. Kids literally learn through projects that they think up and craft all by themselves. It’s also one of the main components transformative education is based on. I know, you’re probably saying, “Okay, but kids already do projects for their classes. There’s really no difference.” Sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s a huge difference. Yes, kids do have a couple of projects throughout the year to help them engage in the work that they’re doing, however, that is completely different from actual project-based learning.
When I say project based learning, I’m talking about projects being done almost every week to help kids really get into whatever subject it is that they’re learning and have fun while doing it. “Okay, but won’t that get old?” Honestly, no. The thing about project-based learning is that the child gets to actually choose the kind of project s/he wants to do. There’s no, “Here this is the kind of project you’ll be doing so start researching.” Instead, the teacher gives the child free rein on what kind of project they want to do and just helps them do the research while they’re at school.
For instance, a kid could choose to do literally any kind of project whether it’s a board game, a play, a song, an interactive website, etc. There’s seriously no end to the options they have. The great thing about that is it helps promote their creativity and motivates them to want to do the research so they can put their project into action. Simply put, it helps them want to learn instead of being told they have to do it.
A Personal Story
Photo cred.: Richland School District 2, ALERT
I remember when I was in elementary school I was in this program called A.L.E.R.T. It was for gifted students, and it, essentially, was a class based on transformative education. We did an incredible amount of projects and it was so much fun. I remember specifically one time we were told we were going to learn about architecture and I immediately thought: “Lame. Architecture is lame. Why do I want to learn about that?” My teacher, Mrs. S., told us that in order to learn about architecture we needed to become architects. “Wait, seriously?” I remember thinking. “How in the world is a fifth grader going to become an architect all of a sudden?”
Mrs. S. said that we would become architects by building our own bridges through whatever means we wanted be it Popsicle sticks, toothpicks, cotton swabs, whatever. The only requirements were that we had to work together in groups and do research on how actual architects would be building this bridge. At that point I got really excited. Outside of my A.L.E.R.T. class, which met only once a week, we didn’t do many projects so school got kind of boring. It’s hard for a ten year old to sit in class and concentrate for eight hours a day when basically all that’s happening is the teacher lecturing you.
I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forget how meaningful those A.L.E.R.T. projects were to me. Every week I looked forward to that one class just because I knew I got to actually get up out of my chair and do a project of some sort. The fact that I understand today how greatly that impacted me as a child is just one of the reasons why I advocate transformative education so much. Project-based learning helped me be inspired and want to actually learn about things that previously seemed stupid or just unimportant because I wasn’t necessarily interested in them. And that’s why I feel like every child should be able to learn that way instead of sitting down at a desk being lectured for eight hours of the day.
There are certainly many more components to transformative education, but I fully believe that if schools and teachers were to start anywhere in integrating that into our education system, it should be with project-based learning. Wouldn’t you want your child to truly want to be engaged and excited to learn about things? I most certainly do. And maybe, just maybe, by blogging about transformative education I can get you to see why this could be such an important transformation in our education system. Hey, someone has to talk to you about these things and gently nudge you every now and then to remind you that their future is in our hands. So let’s start slow and see where it goes.
Photo cred.: Kevin Durden, Richland School District 2