Spring is the perfect time of year for citizen science! It's warming up outside, students are getting antsy and exhausted, testing is underway, breaks are badly needed. On top of that, things start to get active in the world of wildlife, especially in temperate regions like Minnesota. Animals emerge from hibernation, migrating species begin their long journeys to their summer sanctuaries, and it's breeding season for many organisms.
Has anyone else binge-watched "Down to Earth" on Netflix? If you haven't, do it! Down to Earth is the epitome of project-based learning on the road and/or abroad.
Zach Efron (yes, I know), travels around the world focusing his energy on ONE global issue. For example, he visits Paris, where he dives deeply into the issue of clean and healthy drinking water. He talks with engineers, city planners, and local political figures. He talks with locals and visits a water treatment facility.
I have been a high school experiential educator for over a decade, and my dominant approach has been self-directed project-based learning. Students design and execute their projects from start to finish with my guidance.
I didn't choose personalized project-based learning when I first started teaching. In fact, I didn't even know what it was. But the school where I taught insisted on it, and for good reason. PBL is a deep and powerful learning tool, especially when self-directed.
But it's not perfect. That is the reality.
Last week's post was all about how I assess experiential learning, particularly when it comes to project-based learning. One of those strategies is using a learning portfolio, one that students build and manage themselves.
If you are doing experiential learning with your students, such as self-directed project-based learning, having students build a portfolio of learning outcomes is essential.
All kids are different. We know this. Yet it is still common practice to evaluate all students as if they are the same. Students are assessed based on content - and not necessarily an understanding of the content, but the ability to memorize the content - while growth and competencies are put on the back burner.
It is difficult for exams and quizzes to measure growth, 21st-century proficiencies, and even a deep understanding of the content. The experiential philosophy is rooted in all of those things, so how do you evaluate learning when it's experiential?
Spring is here, the weather is warming, and students are getting antsy. The school year is wrapping up. Teachers want to end the year with a bang, but are also exhausted and don't know how much more they have left in them to give! It's testing season, graduation season, grade report season. Ah! Spring is bonkers in the world of education.
So What better way to cruise through the rest of the year and go out with a bang than with community action projects (CAPs)?
When I was teaching high schoolers, I included community action projects in every facet of my teaching. A community action project is a form of project-based learning where students identify issues in the community, research the issues, brainstorm solutions, develop an action plan, and take action. These experiences are the coolest form of self-directed service-learning.
My entire teaching career was at one school, and the philosophy is strongly rooted in "community" as the foundation for learning. In nine years teaching there I developed a deep appreciation for student-involvement in the community.
Students have the capacity to make massive waves of change because they are young, technologically savvy, and many injustices happening in the world today are happening to them, impacting them directly.
What is Authentic Learning?
"Authentic" is a buzzword in the project-based learning world. Authenticity is the foundation of PBL and plays a role in every step of the process from project design to final evaluation.
That is one feature that separates project-based learning from other teaching methods. Learning experiences, final products, sources of information, the presentation, assessments, reflections, etc. should all be authentic - i.e. relevant, real-world, have meaning in the lives of learners, and give students clarity of purpose.
Top Young Adult Books for Women's Studies
About ten years ago I picked up a book called "Half the Sky". Within the first chapter I read this quote: "More than 100 million women are missing..." at any given time. This is because of trafficking, gendercide, domestic violence, etc. This quote, and this book, really struck me. I mentioned it, and the PBS documentary that goes along with it, to a few of my high school students. They were interested, largely because many of the issues resonated with them personally. These students led project-based learning experiences on some of the issues and shared their final products with the school community.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.