7 Ideas for Project Based Learning

Educators agree that project based learning, when implemented thoughtfully, leads to more meaningful and engaging learning opportunities for students. In Project Based Learning and Social Emotional Learning: A Perfect Match, we discussed how PBL and SEL can complement one another and help students build valuable life skills, such as: effective communication, flexibility, leadership and respect for others. Are you looking to start project based learning in your classroom? Here are seven projects to try with your class. Adapt the projects to fit your grade level and student needs!  

Design a new app that solves a problem.

You’ve probably heard it before, but “there’s an app for that.” With new challenges popping up for individuals and communities each day, we can never stop thinking about innovative ways to solve today’s problems as well as the problems of the future. Have students think about a problem they are personally experiencing or witnessing. Could technology help solve the problem? Could technology help bring people together to solve the problem?

Plan a new social media platform that focuses on social good.    

While it may not have been the intent, social media can have dangerous consequences. As people post carefully curated images of their lives, others are left to compare their own experiences. This might lead to negative self-perceptions and can take people’s focus away from engaging in meaningful relationships and experiences. A recent study confirmed that the more time people spend on Facebook, the worse they felt.  Challenge your students to think about the positive and negative benefits of social media. How can we change the current social media landscape for the better? What new platforms can be developed that would fix current problems brought on by social media?

Develop a community improvement plan.

Every community has a unique and evolving set of challenges. Talk to residents, local business owners, law enforcement, school leaders, transportation personnel, etc. and you’ll hear what problems keep them up at night. Have students identify a challenge their community is facing and develop a plan for how it could be fixed. If different groups of students focus in on a variety of challenges, the proposals could be combined to form a full community improvement plan.

Design a new community on another planet.

This project might be inspired from the community improvement plans or could live completely separately. Integrate research on how past civilizations and communities were created. Ask students to reflect upon current challenges global communities are facing. What values were these civilizations and communities founded upon? What infrastructure could be put into place so the new communities won’t face some of challenges they’re facing today? What implications or consequences could their decisions have on the future of the community?

Outline a plan for someone to be “less busy.”

We all have someone in our life who is “too busy,” and our students likely know someone who is chronically busy as well. While some people are able to thrive and maintain busy schedules, it’s more important than ever to build in time for self-care and reflection in a world where we are constantly bombarded by notifications and messages. Have students select a chronically busy person in their life, maybe even themselves, and evaluate their current schedule. What could they change about their lifestyle that might make them less busy? What could they add into their day that will help them focus on personal wellbeing and thrive?

Create a wellness plan for someone important to you or for a historical figure.

There has been a recent push, particularly in the past couple of years, to prioritize health and wellness. New research and studies are providing updated information on what is actually “healthy.” We hear about clean eating, mindfulness, and self care on the news and in our news feeds. Ask students to evaluate some of these current wellness trends. Could they be beneficial for someone in their lives? As an extra challenge, have students research a historical figure. What wellness practices might they have benefited from?

Answer the following question: What would (insert well-known or historical figure) say about (current social issue here)?

A project like this can be particularly powerful as it challenges students to learn about history, research current social issues, analyze differing perspectives, and synthesize all of this information. This will ask students to challenge their own thinking. Allowing students to select which social issue they’d like to research can make the project even more engaging and meaningful for your class.

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