Five Secrets of Project Based Learning (that no one ever told you)

Hey there, Matt from Digital: Divide & Conquer, and I just wanted to share why you should be pushing project based learning with your students and in your classroom. I’m sure you’ve seen or read plenty of articles about it, but I felt like a little first hand knowledge would go a long way with this. In fact -I’m going to let you know five of my favorite double-secret probation reasons why PBL needs to be in your classroom ASAP. 

Secret ONE: Picture Books Kick Butt!
You know those love affairs you have with books...well, you get to continue them with PBL. Picture books are perfect (for almost every single grade level). No matter the topic or idea, there’s a book for the topic. 

Books are the "easy button" of PBL.  They’ll pull in your learners, give them ideas, and expand their knowledge of subjects. You use picture books for every subject, so why not continue that when there’s project based learning involved.

Secret TWO: Pop Culture Happy Hour!
Pop culture isn’t just something I have to read about on magazine covers while waiting in line at the grocery store. Nope. Pop culture can be a driving force because nowadays EVERYTHING becomes sensationalized (this is good and bad, don’t get me started). Find those pop culturally relevant moments and turn them into projects and problems for kids to solve. Some of my favorites involve zombies, food trucks, and lost islands in the Pacific that might have dinosaurs.

Photo by @shammanaj  
One of my all-time favorite PBL activities is seeing if students can design their own tiny house. The past couple of years has been a tiny home explosion on television and in cities around the world. If you want your students to understand area, perimeter, and design a house, this is it. Not to mention -you can throw in real-world pop culture from HGTV shows and even have home builders come to school.

Secret THREE: BFFs with STE(A)M
Science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics....if there was only a way to weave them all together...wait a second... 

Project based learning extends to this STEM realm because it is the constant force for problem solving.  Rather than just hitting each of the identified content areas in STEM, adding PBL portions helps take it to the next level. If you’re already implementing STEM go further and target more than one area of content. This could take a little time, but it’s worth the effort.

Secret FOUR: Attack of the Arts
Quite possibly my favorite part, the arts play such an important role in PBL because so much of it relies on students using their creativity, imagination, willingness to explore, and opportunities to take chances. I highly encourage my students to draw and design throughout all the stages of PBL (maybe more than most) but I feel it’s necessary and allows students to really get into what they’re working on and learning. When I say "the arts" I'm not just talking about drawing. I'm including visual design, storytelling, music, technology, and so much more. The arts are a crucial and under appreciated part of PBL.

Secret FIVE: It Is For All Learners
If someone tells you that PBL is just for the talented and gifted, (take a deep breath) and feel free to laugh at them. But maybe not too much. Seriously though, if we’re only giving “top” students a chance at PBL we’re missing out.  All kids need opportunities to show off their own differentiated sets of skills. And the chances are pretty great that many kids are craving opportunities to show that they think differently. Give them that chance.

As a special education teacher, PBL gives me unlimited abilities to engage my students with the material and concepts AND give them space to create and solve problems in ways I never even imagined. PBL is worth it.

So if you're looking to unlock double-secret probation reasons of project based learning that no one ever told you about check out some of my PBL resources to get you started. It's easier than you think.

You can find more from me at Digital: Divide & Conquer where I tackle project based learning, technology, and the space in between.