West Coast: What Project-Based Learning Might Look Like in Elementary School

By: Marcia Gauvin

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In the NGSS, some of the First Grade Physical Science Performance Expectations revolve around light and how light interacts with different materials. What if these standards could be met through a shadow puppet play as a culminating project?  What if the students could use their science investigations of light in conjunction with their art and engineering skills to create puppets that incorporate elements that are transparent, translucent, and opaque?  What if they wrote scripts that reflected their work in social studies or literacy?  What if they worked with their Spanish teacher to make their script bilingual?  What if they worked with the music teacher to create original songs and musical accompaniment?  What if they took their show on the road, performing for the different classes?  What if they used their library and media classes to film and share their play with a greater audience?

The possibilities are numerous and the costs are low.  It requires a much more integrated approach to their traditional “science” studies, but it might make a whole lot more sense to them when it comes to the question of “why are we studying this?”