Have you heard the term project-based learning lately and wondered what all the buzz is about? Project-based or project-led learning is a term coined to describe the learning that results when students are working to solve real world problems and challenges. It is doing something with a purpose, and it absolutely engages students. We said in our earlier series concerning teaching middle schoolers that middle school is not the time to discount activity-based learning, and that especially applies to those wiggly boys you have!
Does this mean there are no more books? Absolutely not! It just means designing activities to illustrate and demonstrate what students are learning-and if the project has usefulness beyond ‘school,’ the more valuable and long-lasting the learning tends to be. This is also a fantastic way to expose your students to different types of activities-sometimes the very best way to discover the types of activities that inspire your student. Let’s look at some examples.
What kinds of projects?
- Let’s say your student has shown a little interest (or you have the interest) in woodworking. This would be a great project to tie into a study of Colonial History or the Westward Expansion period, when many people made their own homes and furniture. How about building a chair that can actually be used by your student or someone else? Or perhaps a workbench that could be used by the family or a little brother or sister, depending upon the scale? Of course, the student would be involved in researching how to accomplish this task (language arts), figuring how much of what materials would be needed (math), perhaps observing others involved in this endeavor (social skills, field trips), reading about how others in history built their own furniture (language arts, history), learning how to use building tools (science and technology), journaling his or her building progress (writing, photography). Perhaps this activity is enjoyed so much it turns into a side business! (Then MANY other things can be learned!)
- Another project suggested during our Middle Ages unit is to study gardening and create a garden, as herbs were used during that time for everything from perfume to medicine. Growing herbs to be used in the family’s cooking or to sell to the neighbors or at a farmer’s market would be a wonderful project and involve reading, writing, planning, logical thinking and more, not to mention the regular discipline the maintenance of a garden would require.
- Making corn husk dolls, hand-dipped candles or rag rugs also fits nicely into a Colonial unit and have obvious uses as Christmas or birthday gifts.
- Learning how to take care of a car fits nicely into the Immigration unit and could involve studying the history of cars, the technology involved in their production and maintenance, and the costs involved in car ownership. Very practical stuff!
Let’s take advantage of the time and freedom we have homeschooling and give our students the opportunity to do some real world learning. When your student’s time and attention is captured by an activity he truly enjoys, you will be amazed at what learning takes place!
We would love to hear what kind of projects your kids have enjoyed while you have been homeschooling!
Blessings on your home school,