As I walk through the building, Project work is visually identifiable. Classrooms showcase webs, wonderings and student research. What is remarkable about this teaching methodology is how it allows students to learn in ways that fit their style, all while applying knowledge through reading, writing and math.
Culmination is the final phase in Project and is a platform for students to present their work. This is an opportunity to share personal expertise with classmates, family and friends in a “real world” way. Students explain to guests the process of Project and the learning they experienced. Children celebrate achievement and encourage peers as they share information. Culmination lends well to building public speaking confidence around familiar topics of which the students find interesting. Children use models, graphs, art work and displays as visuals for supporting what they are sharing.
As students work through the phases of Project work, there are numerous life skills that are developed, setting the course for independent learning. Strategy discussions take place often to provide scaffolding for staging and planning Project. In group meetings, students learn to listen to the ideas of peers as well as articulate their own wonderings and suggestions to provide practice for more formal exchanges of ideas. During fieldwork, children learn how to note attributes while working on an observational sketch. The students also learn to sort and group items, make lists and write brief field notes. Older students learn the value of preparation for interviewing experts including writing meaningful questions, delivering the questions at an appropriate rate, pace and tone, and utilize notetaking skills to record the answers. This is an excellent opportunity for students to learn to ask for clarification if an answer is unclear. More importantly, students learn the power of investigation, making choices and decisions and learning from mistakes. Developing the skills of trial and error helps them become resilient learners, ready to take on greater challenges.
In one of Sylvia Chard’s works on managing successful projects she writes, “…mistakes are often viewed as evidence to teacher and child that learning has not been successful. Children can come to associate making mistakes with failure. Life in the real world outside school, however, contains plenty of decisions involving risk. Children need to experience being both successful and unsuccessful to help them function with confidence in problematic situations. They need the experience of making mistakes or errors of judgment in a protected environment so they learn the value of analysis and evaluation of goals they set.”
Anticipating consequences and learning the differentiation between depth and coverage of a topic are important outcomes of Project – outcomes that will shape and guide our children with setting a strong foundation for successful lives as global citizens.