Successful Project-Based Learning You've Seen?
March 30, 2012 2:26 AM   Subscribe

Project based learning and interdisciplinary teaching! I'm a high school science teacher working with an enthusiastic English teacher and we're trying to find the best project ideas to use in summer school (and beyond if successful).

Our goal is to incorporate science (any level), English (so fiction and non-fiction links needed) but not too much social studies (the teacher is a flake and we can't count on her support).

I've found some ideas from Edutopia and the Buck Institute (a cool unit about plagues so we can incorporate "Guns, Germs and Steel" and epidemeology), but since we've never done this before we'd prefer a well-crafted unit plan as opposed to inventing it from scratch.

However, we teach in a residential school for girls with histories of severe trauma and abuse and don't want anything that could be triggering (for example, we think this unit could cause the girls with OCD some problems).

Any successful, emotionally safe units you know of? Resources that have lots of lessons and help?

My somewhat bored teacher friend and I thank you in advance.
posted by kinetic to Education (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I taught for several years at a school like that for boys. Is there any possibility that you could grow a garden, plant vegetables and flowers? That could be tied in all sorts of ways to a more standard high school curriculum. Think geology, botany, biology, chemistry, health, nutrition, math, statistics. Where would English come in? They could read good writers on nature, novels about farm life, books about food, cookbooks.

If you don't have outdoor space could you create window boxes?
posted by mareli at 5:55 AM on March 30, 2012

Michael Pollan's Second Nature would be a great starting point for the reading component of mareli's idea.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 7:34 AM on March 30, 2012

You might look into homeschool resources on "unit studies," which is an approach that integrates various academic areas by focusing on a specific subject--like mareli's garden idea. By googling, you will probably find both ideas for planning your own unit studies and downloadable (free or for money) pre-designed units. Might be helpful for ideas.
posted by not that girl at 7:34 AM on March 30, 2012

I did a unit on running/walking that was tied into a significant reading from Born to Run but for the kids to make their own labs you'd probably need force plates or video cameras. My kiddos got really into it. It's not canned but I could send you an outline if you'd like. What supplies do you have available? Are dissections emotionally unsafe?
posted by adorap0621 at 7:54 AM on March 30, 2012

Thanks for the ideas...ideally, I'm looking for an already-done with proven results project, not something I have to pull together myself. I create lessons all year long and for the summer, I just want, for once, to rely upon another source. So if you know where I can find PBL from soup to nuts, that's what I need.

We can't do anything even slightly chemicals, no bloodwork, no dissections, etc.
posted by kinetic at 11:05 AM on March 30, 2012

I guess my question back to you is what are the standards you are required to teach to? Or do are you not following standards?

One man I really respect having taken a professional development class with him, is Ron Berger, he has this books called An Ethic of Excellence:
Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students, in which he outlines how he would pick a subject with his students and then create a curriculum with the students- I have worked at a school who did something similar where they would pick a theme and then let the kids build their work around it with the teacher acting as coach. Ron Berger now works for Expeditionary Learning, and their website has a lot of resources and also huge portfolio of student work:
posted by momochan at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2012

I can teach to any Massachusetts high school science standard.
posted by kinetic at 11:46 AM on March 30, 2012

I assume since you've already played on the Buck Institute's website, you've probably seen this, but if not, here's a list of completed PBL projects sorted by Science (lots of language arts, as well) and high school. Several of these have full PDFs of their lessons, including student handouts and what-not. Good luck!
posted by ceramicblue at 1:03 PM on March 30, 2012

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