Project-based Learning is an interesting alternative to the standard pen and paper, teacher-led type of studies that one pictures with a more classical approach to schooling. Proponents site a deeper understanding of material covered, improved communication skills, improved planning and leadership abilities, and many more benefits to this style of learning.
For homeschools modeling a delight-directed learning approach, project-based activities can take the sincere passions your children possess and turn them into experiences that not only benefit them, but can also benefit your neighborhood, community, or even the world!
The basic idea is that students (or families in our case) work together to solve problems from everyday life or within the community. Ultimately, it encourages students to use independent and creative thinking to bring about solutions to real world needs. Instead of spending time on rote-memorization, students focus on the application of their knowledge in an effort to improve life for others, or themselves. They use what they know or dig in to learn what they need to know to bring about the solutions.
Project-based learning is a comprehensive perspective focused on teaching by engaging students in investigation. Within this framework, students pursue solutions to nontrivial problems by asking and refining questions, debating ideas, making predictions, designing plans and/or experiments, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, communicating their ideas and findings to others, asking new questions, and creating artifacts” ~ Blumenfeld 1991
Of course, with the type of flexibility that homeschool brings, we have the ability to create projects for our students that are community, church, or family based.
Take for instance a Winter Project-based Learning plan; if there is a problem in your area with birds in winter, perhaps you want to have the kids build a bird house, or take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count. The projects may be as simple or as complex as is right for your family.
In a real life example of project-based learning — Sparking Civic Engagement by Building in Public Spaces — sixteen-year-old Alexa gains hands-on experience and leadership skills by collaborating on a play space for kids through Philadelphia’s Public Workshop, which promotes community engagement and innovation.
Learning takes place far beyond the classroom or homeschool room walls!
Here are a few options for project-based learning ideas for your homeschool:
- Check with local museums about volunteering
- Gather supplies via a community outreach promotion for a local shelter
- Take part in Habitat for Humanity or serve as a family at a local homeless shelter
- Build a computer for the family homeschool
- Plan family meals and coordinate with coupons to save a bundle for the family budget
- Serve together at church, taking care of the grounds, nursery or helping to prepare for an outreach event
- Plan or participate in a mission trip, including raising the funds needed
- Participate in Operation Christmas Child
- Walk the beaches for Turtle Watch or adopt a hatchling and raise money for it
- Organize park clean up days or other community gatherings to pick up trash
There is really no limit to the kinds of things that you can do for project-based learning. In many cases you can give credit for middle and high school graduation with such projects, in other cases, you can simply explore ideas your children are interested in or conduct in-depth studies on projects as a co-op.
One of our best project-based learning experiences was when our then twelve-year old decided to build his own computer. He saved the money, did the research, ordered each part he would need and built it from scratch! I could never have pulled that off myself, but his interest was such that he had the required inspiration to make it happen. I simply supervised.
Another project-based learning project that my younger boys have been involved in was teaching a class in survival skills for kids. We love studying the original inhabitants of our area, the Calusa Indians. It sparked an interest in learning about fishing methods, building bows & arrows by hand and much more. Sharing those ideas and techniques with others put a unique spin on the project for us. It has become an ongoing theme for them, designing weapons, animal traps and more. Some of them are designs, others are real working items. NO animals are harmed in the making of said learning projects, but the creativity and free thinking leads to more ideas and additional learning opportunities for the boys.
As homeschool families – we have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the community as we have the ability to include such projects into our schooling.
What is it that comes to mind for you when you see “Project-based Learning”? What would your first family project of choice be?
Kelli Becton is a homeschool mom of 3 boys and resides with her husband, on the coast in Southwest Florida. They have been homeschooling almost since 2003 and have developed their own hands on learning style with Wildlife Adventures Unit Studies. Kelli shares their adventures and loads of freebies at www.AdventuresinChildrearing.com – Facebook Here & Pinterest Here.
I would also love to invite you the community inspired by this series, as we strive to inspire, encourage and empower our readers in everything homeschooling.