Sayre Lower School adopted Project-Based Learning as a critical component of our curriculum because of its ability to cultivate strong 21st century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, communication, innovation and problem solving. Today’s global economy will require children to be able to ask questions, gather data, test hypotheses, take initiative, integrate information from multiple disciplines, make decisions and communicate clearly. Project-based learning allows this to happen in the microcosm of our classrooms, giving children the opportunity to practice these skills in real-life, age appropriate ways. Across all of our age groups, children are engaging in deep investigations of topics which children and teachers believe are worth further understanding.
The key feature of a project is that it is a research effort deliberately focused on finding answers to questions about a topic posed either by the children, the teacher, or the teacher working with the children. Projects provide contexts in which children’s curiosity can be expressed purposefully, and that enable them to experience the joy of self-motivated learning. Teachers do not always know what direction a project will take or what aspects of a topic will interest a particular group. Well-developed projects engage children’s minds and emotions and become adventures that teachers and children embark on together. (Helm & Katz, (2011). Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years. New York: Teachers College Press, p. 2-3).
All projects have the common elements of child initiation and decision making - teachers and children choose topics that emerge from children’s own thinking and interests. Good projects demand and allow children to use all of the cognitive, academic and social skills that they have developed in a real life context and provide many windows of insight into a child’s level of skill and development. Excellent projects do not replace academic content; instead, a strong project acts as a vehicle in which to teach, reinforce and communicate strong content knowledge in a manner that optimizes child engagement, critical thinking and ownership of learning.
We hope that you will visit our classrooms and see our project work in action - it changes every day!