A Former Student’s Video Easily Conceptualizes Project-Based Learning for All


The video above is the product of a former student of mine–Tiffany–who is closing out her third year at Georgia Tech. In one of her design classes, she was given the choice to develop media of her choosing on a topic of her choosing. She choose to highlight project-based learning (PBL) and use the opportunity to explain succinctly what PBL is and its potential value. She agreed to let me post the After Effects animation here to share. While a short video certainly cannot explain the complexity of PBL, it will serve as a quick primer for students, parents, and teachers alike unfamiliar with the instructional strategy.

When Tiffany shared her first draft of the video with me several months ago, she wrote in an email–

It’s… 1:10am…My final project is finally due today, and while I am still planning on fixing a few minor things, I have finally finished the PBL PSA.
Looking back, it isn’t exactly what I was imagining and honestly is quite imperfect, but after spending over 60 hours laboring over it, I think I am as happy as I can be.
She was clearly exhausted and ready to put this project behind her. Tiffany is also a self-described perfectionist, which I can confirm from her time in my Studio classroom. That said, her pursuit of perfection in many cases is a labor of love, especially when tackling an authentic project. How do I know? Tiffany finished that same email, writing–
Overall, as I was making this video, I could not help but smile at all the amazing memories I had as a high schooler. Both you and Coach Carroll truly made my high school experience so one-of-a-kind and so worthwhile, I just cannot thank you both enough. And I know I have really delayed sending you my “blog post” that may or may not ever get to you (Hopefully it does! Summing up a life-changing portion of your life in a page or 2 is SO challenging), I hope you both know that while this video does not say it, I truly appreciate you both changing my life and showing me how far passion can take you. PBL taught me to truly put my all in everything I do, to play far outside the box, and to follow my passions no matter what (as cheesy as it is).
So Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. (Bold emphasis from the original email)
Tiffany, you may have never written that blog post, but this video and your email says it all. So, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Students Leveraging PBL: When Potential Meets Authenticity

The forty-nine second video above is meant to highlight my district; however, the real stars of the video are the three young ladies from my school who received a patent for their eyeliner stamp just a few months ago. I’ve shared a bit of their story before on the blog. The realization of their patent–which took nearly a year and half to go through the system–is what project-based learning has to offer students and teachers when potential meets authenticity. In truly collaborative style, their patent came to fruition through a project challenge that lead to a local mentor seeing these students through the process. I can think of no better example of the potential power of PBL instruction than what this video shows the world.

Ms. C PBL Update: An Oceanography Project Begins


This past Thursday, Ms. C–one of the two science teachers I’m doing the praxis of PBL alongside–launched her senior oceanography students into their first day of project research. Technically, she had already launched the project. While the launch was not ‘glitzy,’ getting their input into the shape of the project, its rubric, and knowing their audience pulled them into the project nonetheless. If you have ever taught at a high school, then you know that at this point in the year seniors have a tendency to start to mentally checking out of their classes. Many have found out what schools they have gotten into for next year, which may contribute to the malaise many seniors find themselves the last quarter of the year. Whatever the case, Ms. C knew she would be up against her students’ potential lethargy. To assuage her concern, contacted our cluster elementary schools and asked if their students could act as an audience for Ms. C’ s students’ project work–the answer was a resounding ‘yes.’ The built in audience of elementary school students–while it does not guarantee participation–should help keep her students motivated. Really, that is the case with any project. Without a a touch of authenticity or real audience, skeptical and reluctant students alike will not find PBL any more relevant than the worksheets they are still given. Continue reading

Developing an Entry-Level Chemistry PBL: Creating a Tool Box for Success


Today’s post is an update on project planning I am currently doing with Ms. S, a second year chemistry teacher. When I last left off with Ms. S and Ms. C, I requested they both consider what standards they wanted their projects to have students to do some deep-diving. In wonderful fashion, Ms. S did just that for both a fall project idea and a spring project idea. We spent our planning time work on her fall idea. Using several Buck Institute resources (BIE.org), we started the design process, which to be fair is an overwhelming venture the first time you take it on as a teacher. Why so overwhelming? PBL requires considering a far more variables than typical lesson planning does, and a teacher must plan several contingencies, which amounts to a stressful process where a teacher does not always know where to begin the first time they design a PBL. Like many bad memories, I tend to forget how difficult my first year of doing pervasive PBL really was on me mentally and physically. As I try to coach others like Ms. S, I try my best to recall those feelings of being tired and overwhelmed. Empathy is important when guiding other educators into uncharted waters–remembering we’re in it together keeps me humble and helps me give other teachers perspective. Still, empathy only goes so far. A teacher still needs a firm launching point, so I used BIE resources and a few in-house documents to create a project planning packet.

Continue reading

Dipping Our Toes into PBL: First Meeting with Ms. S and Ms. C


Yesterday, I sat down with two science teachers in my school building, Ms. S (chemistry) and Ms. C (oceanography/biology), to start a conversation about developing project-based learning (PBL) in their classes.

Both are new PBL as an instructional method, but both are interested in developing their pedagogy to include PBL as a more authentic approach to their content. While Ms. S is planning more so for next year, Ms. C is working on a PBL for her oceanography students that would take place in March/April. Inside today’s post, I go through the pace of our conversation and the questions and concerns they both had moving forward into uncharted waters. Continue reading