Taking A Run At Project Based Learning

--Originally published at Learning Opportunities

Teaching Scientific Research and Design as a Project –Based Learning course has been an evolution. What started out as short projects (2 – 6 week duration) has become a course with an intro project, a yearlong project and an end-of-year field trip and project. I am following Buck Institute’s PBL Model.
Challenging Problem or Question: Design and build a solar powered charging station that can be placed in the school for student use.
Sustained Inquiry: Research requirements to build the station. Research building codes. Experiment to find the best placement of the stations Experiment with solar panels, circuitry. Experiment to create robust design. More experiments to come.
Authenticity: This is all done by the students. They have created the designs and plans, chosen the parts and will build the stations. They are excited about leaving a legacy at Allen High School. They will also chose the challenge for next year’s students.
Student Voice and Choice: Once again, it is all them. They were given the basic requirements and created designs that met or were so amazing the original requirements were adjusted. Students created their plans and will have to find their way to success.
Reflection: My students are blogging throughout the process. I want them to understand that they decide when the work is done. They can make the change and learn from their mistakes.
Critique and Revision: This is constant. The first round of proposals was for the class to choose some they want to build. The second round (with one day to revise) was for administration to have some input.
Public Product: The final stations will be our public product, but in the meantime student’s participated in an administrator’s sharktank and will continue blogging.
Key Knowledge and Learning Success for Students: So many skills fall into this category. Every day there is something new for the students to learn. Since my course objectives are scientific process skills there is not an issue with state objectives. Students are constantly planning and performing experiments, researching, working cooperatively, problem solving, revising, and communicating. They are also learning how to love learning.
We’re busy learning in my classroom. Every day is an adventure. I’m learning along with the students and loving every minute of every class.


  • Katie, this sounds so exciting! I’m doing PBL in my German Language classrooms, too. It’s so rewarding to see my students all fired up about presenting their projects. I’m curious about your approach to assessment?

    • Birgit,
      PBL in a German class sounds really great.
      For assessment I provided a detailed rubric with check points along the way. Also, conversations and other more concrete short formative assessments helped me keep the students on track and make sure they had the knowledge they needed to be successful when they submitted their final projects. I hope this helps. If not, ask more question.

Leave a Comment