Tom tells a great story on his blog to expand and explain more about his involvement in Project-based learning. A local wild flower is endanger of extinction and most of the suggestions for how the children could help had been classroom focussed. Now these were nice, media rich, digital projects, build a web site, design posters – the usual. Interesting, maybe even fun, learning opportunities but just not very real. Here’s what he helped them come up with and perhaps more importantly how he did it:
Tryangulation: Reinventing project based learning
I conducted a simple problem analysis exercise with the students and one of our biology teachers, where we stated the problem (threat of extinction), and then ask why (loss of habitat). You ask why again (urban sprawl, intensive agriculture), and keep asking why until you get the big picture that shows how this problem relates to a larger system. As we looked at the bigger picture, we saw that a media campaign in the school community would not touch people who were close enough to the problem to do anything. But we did realize that we could take a different and more effective approach by collecting seeds in the wild and propagating them on our campus. The creative juices started flowing and we saw the potential for producing enough seeds to share with other schools in the area, and even for establishing a low-tech seed bank to help protect other endangered wildflowers in our province.
Although some of our students might have felt content with a nice website and a contest, bringing in a learning tool from “the real world” helped us find a solution that could have a genuine and sustainable impact.
I’d love to have seen this extended a stage further and here’s where the digital tools could have addded a dimension. Instead of the static web site a blog for the students to share and reflect on their learning during the process and to draw in those in a similar position who might be inspired by the work. A flickr photo stream to document it all, including the notes from that problem analysis excercise, would have been nice too 🙂