A few weeks ago, I visited The Lucy School, which is a private arts integration school in Frederick County, MD. The school is PreK-2, and has some amazing applications to public schools. One of which is the return of Project-Based Learning. Remember that from when you were a kid, or when you first started teaching? Doing some big projects in your class and then joining with the rest of the grade to present the final product? Well, it’s back! What a great time in education for it to make a come-back! Why? Research shows consistent results in this teaching strategy. Here’s some ways to make project based learning work in public schools.
Given the time constraints and curricular objectives to cover in most public schools, many teachers and administrators think that project-based learning is almost impossible. After all, who has time to give a whole 4-8 weeks to a project anymore? However, if we think outside the box a little bit, we can find that time. Through the use of arts integration, projects can be used to teach and assess multiple objectives across the content and arts areas over a period of time.
So in essence, you’re actually saving time by using project-based learning.
We saw this first hand at the Lucy School. They have a fairly typical school schedule with reading and math blocks in their day. They also provide 15 minute breaks between blocks. This is so students can either get outside or have some free time to refresh their minds. The one thing that really stood out to our group, though, was the time dedicated to their “project lesson”. This is about 45 minutes twice a week that is allotted for working on their grade-level (or sometimes school-wide) projects. The project is usually based on a story that also connects with other objectives like math, science or history and various fine arts objectives in art, drama, or music.
For instance, the students read the book “The Map-Maker’s Daughter” and then mapped out the grounds of the school using math and social studies objectives, enacted the story through a drama, and created their own maps of the story. This spans a quarter’s worth of objectives within one project. At the end of the project, students wrote about their experiences and the maps and writing became part of their assessment.
This is completely realistic to use in a public school.
The part that is hard is finding the time. Obviously, it may be hard to set aside a “project time” in the master schedule of your building. But, your team could certainly choose a part of their day (perhaps during language arts or content time) for one quarter to use as their “project time” twice a week or so. And by making it an arts integration project, you will be covering many objectives from multiple contents, making this a time-saver. The end project could be a celebratory event where parents and administrators are invited in to observe or participate. It’s a great way to build various relational skills, create deep connective meaning, and build community. In addition, many studies have shown that project based learning results in high student achievement because the project is both an internal and an external way to manipulate the information to create meaning.
I encourage you to give project-based learning a try as we start the wind-down to our school year!
If you’d like more information on project-based learning, how to implement it into your curriculum and lesson plan, click here to find out more information about the Arts Integration e-Course offered twice this summer!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.