Once of the things that I was trying to accomplish with my last post was to put forth the idea that, often, learning takes place outside the walls of the traditional classroom. In fact, I would argue that in the history of the world a very small percentage of learning has taken place inside a classroom. Real knowledge comes from real experience and one of the things that we are horrible at manufacturing in schools is reality. Most of the time, the things that students are supposed to be doing and learning have little obvious connection with the reality of the world outside the confines of the school. Our reaction to this is the push for PBL.
PBL seeks to make learning relevant. Projects aren't treated as isolated bits of knowledge for students to learn. The projects should be integrated within the framework of the curriculum and should include as many real world experiences as possible. The audience should be bigger than the teacher and the project should include opportunities for students to engage in practicing 21st century skills.
Today my students began to investigate Lewis and Clark through the PBS website and Ken Burns' documentary. I always talk about Lewis and Clark embarking on the greatest of road trips. We will try to expand this idea tomorrow by launching a project on the Great American Road Trip. Students will examine why people "take to the road." What kinds of things push people to move, to explore?
Students will partner up and look at specific instances in US History when Americans moved about and what were the motivations for this movement? The students will then design a museum exhibit based around the idea of a road trip and will seek to display the reasons why Americans have taken to the road in the past. The exhibits will be set up in an area where people from outside the school can see them and give feedback. I look forward to seeing what the students come up with.