THE STRE(A)M LAB @ P.S. 115
On Makerspaces and Project-Based Learning:
I define a makerspace as any space in a school that supplies hands-on materials for students to collaborate, create, and build projects that are connected to what they'relearning in their core academic classes. The idea is that by producing actual objects created with their studies, they will have a stronger grasp and understanding on what they're learning. Some makerspaces have high-end technology, while others have really simple components and materials such as cardboard. In both extremes, the success of a makerspace depends on how educators connect projects to what they are striving to teach kids.
What is Project-Based Learning?
Project-based learning is a teaching method that deepens student understanding and broadens each child's learning experience by designing real-world projects connected to student's current curricula studies. Some examples of project-based learning could be:
- Having students develop a "radio station" and podcast book reports.
- Showing understanding of measurement, arithmetic, and early algebra concepts by constructing bridges, towers, houses, etc made from Popsicle sticks, cardboard, toothpicks, spaghetti, etc.
- Allowing students to explore the steps of the scientific method by creating their own product and running a "Shark Tank" themed assessment of their work.
- Running full scale, cross-curricular, science projects connected directly to a fictional text that students are working with in ELA.
Great, But When Do I Have Time?
This seems to be a recurring question: I like the idea, but I'm already inundated with work, test prep, etc. How can I do this?
The simple truth is this: When project-based learning is done well, it isn't an additional supplement to your work. It becomes the work.
Simple Steps To Make PBL an Integral Part of Your Teaching:
- Know Your Curriculum Map
- Identify Areas Where You Would Usually Assess Students
- Research and Prepare Project Idea for that area
- Design with outcome in mind
- Develop writing exercise to accompany project, in order to a) test for understanding AND b) help strengthen literacy
- Reward students for effort and offer meaningful feedback
I don't think there can be a definitive list of inspiring sites to help bring Maker Education and Project-Based Learning into your classroom. Consider this a stepping stone, a first step in turning your classroom into a place of wonder, innovation, and project-based greatness:
The Big Names:
Pinterest: Harness the powers of Pinterest in order to find a connection between what you're learning about and manageable projects to bring into your lesson or unit. The key to a good search return is modifying your search terms to closely match what you're trying to create. If you just did a unit on birds, simply searching birdhouse won't be good enough. Think about materials available-- what about recycled bottle birdhouse ? Now we're talking!
Facebook: Facebook users can simply search "project-based learning" or "makerED" in order to find other cool educators who are doing stuff you might be interested in adopting.
How-To's and Inspiration:
Toys From Trash is not only an amazing story of innovation, its a great resource for finding tons of projects that'll fit into any unit of study.
Instructables: Instructables offers great, well, instructions for just about anything. Use this site to its fullest potential and not only will you find yourself wowing your students, you'll wind up doing a project or two yourself.
PBS KIDS: There are a lot of hands-on projects ranging from arts and crafts to engineering activities on this increasingly awesome site.
A REALLY INSPIRING DOCUMENTARY:
Grab some popcorn and take a few minutes to watch, Caine's Arcade. I bet you you will leave ready to make great projects with your kids!!!