Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
I facilitate a women's studies seminar every year, and as a seminar finale, students design and lead their own high school project-based learning experiences around a subtopic of their choice.
One year a student chose to do her project on domestic violence. She connected with the Sojourner Project, a domestic violence shelter in the Twin Cities. An educator from there came into the school to speak with her. This student also contacted a self-defense instructor to come into the school to teach her and her classmates self-defense strategies.
This student assembled all of the information that she gathered into a presentation and created a brochure that included signs of domestic abuse, community resources for survivors, tips for friends and family of abuse survivors and more. She placed brochures around the community from health clinics to bus stops to school counseling offices.
This student didn't gather statistics and info from a few websites online, copy and paste them into a Powerpoint presentation and regurgitate the information from her slideshow to her classmates.
She collaborated with the community, reached out to experts in the field, made an impact, and shared her knowledge and insight with a relevant audience. That is an example of self-directed project-based learning. She had choice in every aspect of the experience, and thus the experience was deep and meaningful. It mattered to her and her community.
What is project-based learning?
My experience and philosophy of teaching are largely based around project-based learning (PBL). I have been a high school project-based educator for 13 years. There are a few misconceptions around project-based learning that I hope to clarify in this post, one being that PBL is the same as a project.
In short, project-based learning involves sustained inquiry, is innovative, relevant, and authentic. Students gather information on a topic or problem through questioning, learning activities, and community collaboration. They share their new skills and knowledge beyond classroom walls in such a way that impacts the local and/or global community.
What is PBL specifically?
What is Project Based Learning for Self-Directed Learners Anyway?
The level of self-direction varies among educators. ALL project-based learning experiences in my classroom are student-directed - designed and led by students. There are many opportunities in PBL to give students choice and autonomy. That's why I love it!
Self-Directed Project-Based Learning Activity Planning:
But what does a self-directed PBL experience look like when in action, especially with 25 students in your class?
I use the PBL starter kit and plan facilitation using a planner that I specifically designed for coordinating self-directed PBL. Read my blog post on the facilitation steps of project-based learning activities, specifically those that are self-directed. Grab my free digital, Google Slides planner and head over to that post for a play-by-play.
Getting Started with Self-Directed Project Based Learning:
A great way to get started is with my self-directed project-based learning activities starter kit. It includes all of the guiding tools for designing, planning and executing project-based learning activities. It also includes a more comprehensive version of the free sample PBL learning planner.
If this post has your interest, continue following this blog series on how to execute self-directed project-based learning. I've covered the philosophy. Now it's time for details and tangible, actionable steps. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you next week, planner in hand!
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest, Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram for more on self-directed education, and check out my TpT store for experiential learning activity resources.
Did you know there is an experiential learning Facebook group? Check that out - Experiential Learning Community for K12 Teachers - and join in the discussion about experiential learning ideas such as citizen science.
Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
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.