I recently came across Houghton Mifflin’s Project Based Learning site. The site houses several example lesson plans for classroom activities that emphasize long-range, interactive learning projects. The five projects listed come with highly detailed descriptions of the goals and activities included in the projects and pose several driving questions for each element of the assignment.
The best project-based-learning activities are cooperatively designed between the teacher and the students, with careful attention paid to the differentiated needs of each member of the class. But we do not teach in a world where we always have the time to plan such individualized projects. That is where sites such as Houghton Mifflin’s come in handy. Just scanning their list sets my head spinning with ideas for new projects…
One project that I found particularly fascinating has rather little to do with high school physics. However, it is possible that physics might be the only subject area that is not directly addressed by the Hiking the Appalachian Trail project. Students are asked to plan a hiking expedition with a group of classmates. Students generate maps of the trail and surround environment; perform cost projection for gear and food; learn what food will be the most nutritional option for hikers; estimate the physical fitness of their group members to determine how much mileage the group can expect to average each day and more.
This single project – and such a simple idea – creates opportunities for students in math, science, geography and health. Students engage in writing and planning activities, and extension projects present themselves naturally as the hikers traverse a range regions of the eastern United States (from Georgia to Maine) that each have unique historical and literary contributions.
For those interested in taking the project into the technology realm, Google Earth is chock-full of tools for exploring the trail, the bio-regions and the communities it encompasses.
Image available under CC License by Pen Waggoner