Exploring a worthy question ~ Building skills and knowledge during the project ~ Collaborating with classmates ~ Solving a problem in your own way ~ Presenting your solution
The children work in small Project Groups each week. Our teachers work to support the creativity and interests of the children, as well as to introduce a wide range of concepts that will provide a foundation for future learning. Some projects are one or two days long, for example when our preschoolers learn about germs and design imaginary germs. Some projects spread over multiple weeks or months. Children with different ages, interests, and developmental readiness can work on the same project because our teachers are experienced with differentiating the curriculum.
All projects have a problem for the children to solve:
- What is your imaginary germ?
- What machine will you build to use in the snow?
- How will the leprechaun get into your contraption?
We use Project Based Learning to frame our longer projects. This framework is used at the middle school and high school level to support 21st Century Learning (see www.bie.org and www.P21.org). Bellevue Discovery is at the forefront nationally at adapting PBL to early childhood.
Over the last six years we have developed this framework for Project-Based Learning with highly capable preschoolers: We start with a Driving Question and explore ideas related to that question for a few months.
For our Planet Earth project, our Driving Question was, “What is a planet?”
We explore multiple topics related to the Driving Question. Teacher-guided activities provide opportunities for advanced thinking, open-ended problem solving, and gaining skills, while being developmentally appropriate for preschoolers. Challenges are introduced to engage children’s hearts, minds and bodies, and to inspire them in their individual and group pursuits.
During our Planet Earth project we explored gardens, rocks, fossils, geography, volcanoes, inside planet Earth, and outer space.
A typical short-term project begins with Language Experience: we read a high quality fiction or non-fiction picture book, looking at themes, content, writing mechanics, and phonics. We immerse ourselves in the story, adding song, movement, drama, and art to our exploration. The teachers then introduce a problem related to the literature for the children to solve. When we explored gardens, the children’s problem was,
“What can I discover when I dissect a dandelion?
After many weeks, our work culminates in a Project Presentation in which the children showcase their learning for their families.
For our Planet Earth Project Presentation, each child designed an imaginary planet, complete with 2-D and 3-D representations and a planet report.
On Planet Day our families attended the presentation as space travelers: collecting passport stamps as they visited the planets, talking with the children about their discoveries, and writing comments in the Planetary Guestbooks.