If you were to ask me, "how can I make my summer school session fun and engaging?" (and not just fun and engaging for the kids), I would say, "make personalized, self-directed project-based learning the foundation of the session".
It doesn't matter what subject you teach, if you're a classroom teacher or a home educator, if you're a rural or urban educator. My answer would be the same across the board. No question.
End of the School Year Experiential Learning Activities
The end of the school year is among us, and everyone is tired. You're tired, your students are tired. Testing season is wrapping up, some students are studying for finals or wrapping up big projects. Others are helping prepare for end of the school year events such as prom or graduation. Let's face it. It's a lot. Implementing experiential learning activities in your classroom may be the answer you're looking for.
So why not let down your hair a bit and let your students have some fun and learn something at the same time? I've compiled a list of my student's favorite experiential learning activities to do at the end of the year.
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 a 5 star example 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 to assess experiential learning activities, particularly when it comes to project-based learning. Project-based learning rubrics are great for evaluating project-based learning activities as single experiences, but how can students document or share their learning experiences on a deeper and more comprehensive level? What can used as a big-picture project-based learning assessment?
Learning portfolios! Students can self-direct project-based learning assessment portfolios, building and managing the portfolios themselves.
If you are doing experiential learning activities of any kind with your students, such as self-directed project-based learning, having students build a portfolio of learning outcomes is essential.
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.
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.
Project-Based Learning End Product Ideas to Demonstrate Learning
Do you need innovative ideas for projects that have creative end products to demonstrate learning? Sometimes we just need something to reference for final project ideas. This blog post is a laundry list of interesting and creative project final product ideas that students and teachers can browse for inspiration.
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.