Matthew R. Stover
Go Down That Rabbit Hole! - Project-Based Learning for Modern Kids
In a to-the-second, instant-gratification world, information comes fast! Students living in today’s world get nuggets of information across a breadth of topics from social media alone. Even how we read has changed, with our eyes following an “F” pattern as we scan, skim, and scroll on the web. Combining this new technology with the research papers of the past can create an incredible project-based learning opportunity for your students.
Whether in your individual classroom or with a collaborative, cross-curricular approach, project-based learning (PBL) allows students to lead the way in exploration while staying within the boundaries of the educational guidelines. There are essential elements to PBL, including an authentic real-world problem or challenge that students must inquire about, research, and either take a stand or present from a new angle.
Involving your community with partnerships, internships, shadowing, and public presentations gets your entire area involved in supporting education. You just need to get started!
Brainstorm Local Issues or Needs
Ask students to take a step back and be observers for a set period of time. Where do they notice a need? What are issues they’re hearing about around your school or area in which you live? Where are areas that they - as students - could make a difference? Collaborate as a class and make a list of options. Students should choose something that is meaningful and that they feel they can make a difference from exploring.
Set a Schedule & Outcomes
PBL can quickly lead students too far down the rabbit hole of exploration if they don’t have a set of objectives or outcomes to accomplish. Educators should decide in advance what they would like to see as deliverables during and at the end of the project. Is it keeping a journal throughout the process? Is it posting their journey on TikTok in reels over time? Is it a tactile end result, like building picnic benches for a local preschool? Make these decisions ahead of time and involve your students in the process - even give them options for the deliverables if you’re able.
Don’t Keep Quiet!
Get your community involved! Allow students to make connections with people and businesses and organizations within your area to “put a face to” the real-world needs. Encourage them to interview and inquire about information or facts that represent the need. Explore all sides of an issue with the community members involved. Then return for some solid background research. Post your students’ journeys online to promote the good works happening at your school!
Project-Based Learning can lead you down a rabbit hole, but - when planned ahead of time - can bring you right back out with an actionable response or project to support an initial need. Consider introducing your students to student-led PBL this semester!