Monday, March 21, 2016

PBL - Finding Solutions to Problems

This is Spring Break for us, a time to reflect on the past three quarters and look forward to our final quarter of the school year. This year, our tech team is leading our faculty in discussions about project-based learning. We realize that PBL is a mindshift from teacher-directed interdisciplinary units to being more student-directed, based on questions that are generated from the students themselves, and it has not been an easy transition.

As I walked around the school today, I stopped to admire the vegetables and plants that the second graders and the fifth grade Garden Club are growing. Then I noticed that the vines from the gourd plant were entwined on the native hibiscus plant. Last year, some fourth graders planted seeds from the gourds that they cleaned out, sanded, and polished to make ipu, a Hawaiian rhythm instrument. With minimal care, the gourd vines continue to grow. As our SSC and I carefully disentangled the vines from the hibiscus bush, I made a lot of observations about how the vine was growing. I realized that this would be a perfect opportunity for students to ask questions about the plant and how it grows. This could lead to researching about the gourd plant and why it was so important to the ancient Hawaiians. Hopefully, when students make music with their ipu, they will have a better understanding and a better appreciation, for the gourd.

Due to the construction on our campus, we have limited space for our students to play at recess. It's not too late to have our students be part of the solution. Let them have a discussion about what could be allowed at recess, what rules or restrictions we might have, and what new activities we might allow students to participate in during this free time. Why haven't we thought to ask them for their ideas?  Students might be more invested in finding solutions to problems if we give them the opportunity to share in the discussion. After all, as this article points out, recess is essential for children. 

Recently, a question was raised about a homework policy at our school. We've had this discussion before, but there was no consensus so we decided that each grade level would determine their own policy. This time, our discussion was fueled by a blog about an elementary school that abolished homework.   Since we are looking for opportunities to learn more about project-based learning, I think this is a perfect time to use a real-life problem and have all our role groups - teachers, students, and parents -  contribute to the solution. We will come up with questions then allow time for exploration, examining other schools' homework policies, sharing research about the benefits of homework, and discussing our findings. Hopefully, every role group's voices will be heard, and we will come up with some shared beliefs about homework that will help us create a policy for our school.

These kinds of discussions will help our teachers to gain a better understanding about the positive benefits of project-based learning. We can then empower our students to be problem-finders and problem-solvers, to seek solutions to everyday problems they may encounter in their lives.

Can you spot the new gourds that are growing? There are at least 4; look carefully. 
I hope to learn about the best time to pick the gourds so they can be transformed into ipu or water carriers. Perhaps the students will be able to teach me about what they learn. If you look closely, these gourds have little spots on them; some insects got to them before they could be picked. 

1 comment:

  1. Did you notice that the one that was moved is beginning to rot. Aww