PBL at STEM K-8

The STEM K-8 PTA Direct Give Campaign has begun!  These contributions make it possible for the PTA to support exceptional learning experiences for STEM students.  The Direct Give provides hundreds of STEM books, additional technology, tools, construction materials, scientific instruments, software and supports vital parts of our program such as Project Based Learning.  Funds are used to provide staff with additional planning, training, classroom resources, and support. Please donate to the STEM K-8 Direct Give at whatever level you are able.

Thanks to all of you who were able to join us for the Middle School Open House last week.  It’s an important opportunity to meet teachers, get information on how our middle school classes work, and figure out how to support your children.

One important component STEM K-8’s programs at every grade level is Project Based Learning We began this year with an extra whole staff professional development day focused on common definitions and practices for PBL.  In conjunction with our work with PBL Consulting©, STEM K-8 is using the PBL definition below:

Project Based learning is a methodology of teaching and learning in which students respond to real-world challenges, problems, controversies, scenarios, and simulations through a process of focused, student-influenced inquiry with the goals of:

  1. Genuine student engagement
  2. Mastery of academic learning outcomes
  3. Development of 21st century competencies
  4. Production of tangible outcomes

We agreed that high quality PBL contains the following characteristics:

  1. Academic Learning Outcomes

The implementation of the project is modeled off of a method of inquiry used in the adult world such as the scientific method, the historical method, design thinking, the engineering design process, a process for problem solving, etc.

  1. 21st Century Competencies

Projects are initiated and focused with either an “essential question” that promotes enduring understandings and/or by a “driving question” – an open-ended, concrete, and easily understandable question that is motivating to students and answered by students at the end of the project through their tangible outcomes. Teachers and/or students can write focusing question(s).

  1. Tangible Outcomes

The project is grounded in a problem, controversy, scenario, simulation, current event, challenge or issue that is authentic, engaging and/or meaningful to students.

  1. Focused Inquiry

The implementation of the project is modeled off of a method of inquiry used in the adult world such as the scientific method, the historical method, design thinking, the engineering design process, a process for problem solving, etc.

  1. Driving Question

Projects are initiated and focused with either an “essential question” that promotes enduring understandings and/or by a “driving question” – an open-ended, concrete, and easily understandable question that is motivating to students and answered by students at the end of the project through their tangible outcomes. Teachers and/or students can write focusing question(s).

  1. Engaging Context

The project is grounded in a problem, controversy, scenario, simulation, current event, challenge or issue that is authentic, engaging and/or meaningful to students.

  1. Student Voice and Choice

Students are given opportunities (depending on age and experience with PBL) to express (1) voice – their opinion, perspective, idea or answer in the distinctive style or tone of their choosing and (2) choice – selecting between two or more product options or making key decisions about how, when, where and with whom they will conduct project work.

  1. Drafting and Critique

Throughout the project, students are given multiple opportunities to draft, revise, improve and refine their tangible outcomes with the use of structured opportunities for critique from multiple sources – self, peers, teacher and adults.

  1. Adult World Connections

Students connect with the adult world through fieldwork, authentic documents and data and/or work with organizations, experts, stakeholders and professionals.\

STEM staff are committed to growing staff and student effectiveness in implementing PBL.  We also agreed to make our Winter and Spring PBL exhibitions an opportunity to display PBL in-process rather than simply a display of final products.  We’re looking forward to partnering with parents to support to the continued development of PBL at STEM.

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