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Travis Heights Elementary School PTA > Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning

What is it?

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students learn by working for an extended period of time to research and respond to a real-world, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.

  • Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills – The project is focused on student learning goals,content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and self-management. (all following state curriculum standards)
  • Challenging Problem or Question – The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.
  • Sustained Inquiry – Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.
  • Authenticity – The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.
  • Student Voice & Choice – Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.
  • Reflection – Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.
  • Critique & Revision – Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.
  • Public Product Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the classroom.

Why are we doing it?

Travis Heights is always looking for the best way to teach our students. In our search for the perfect fit for our curriculum and charter vision, we found a program that empowers students, teaches required content through experience, and fosters critical thinking. A breakaway from traditional teaching, project based learning poses a driving question to students that helps frame a project that incorporates multiple subjects (Reading, Math, SS, Science and Writing). Students are given a chance to reflect, peer critique, and revise throughout the project to create critical thinking skills and develop superior products. Audiences are carefully selected for presentation so that students are delivering their hard work to those who would benefit from it most. We want our students to not only learn the standards, but to be able to apply their new knowledge in a meaningful way.

What will this mean for my child?

During projects, students will work in partners or groups instead of individually. Rather than receiving instruction separated by subject, during a project, students will receive cross-curricular lessons that tie back to their project’s driving question. Another difference from traditional learning is that lessons are tailored to what students already know and what they need to know in order to answer the driving question. This allows teachers to spend more time on extension and adjustments based on student choice and avoids reteaching concepts the students are already familiar with.

Examples of PBL projects:

  • Kindergarten -Developed an Alphabet Museum to present to PK classrooms.  
  • 1st Grade- Native American unit focused on students being anthropologists as well as cartographers to develop different types of maps to demonstrate where Native American tribes lived.  
  • 2nd Grade-Students create a book to teach newcomers about Travis Heights Elementary:  Learn About Travis Heights Elementary
  • 3rd Grade- Market Days- Students created a product to sell, developed a marketing poster, and bought and sold their products at “Market Day.”
  • 4th grade-  
    • Native American – Driving Question:  How do we as anthropologists use digital citizenship to explain the way of life of American Indians in order to raise awareness about the preservation of culture? – Real World Connection includes the pipeline issue in South Dakota.  
    • Force and Motion – Driving Question – How can we as scientist use our knowledge about energy to assist an alien in repairing his spaceship to return to his home planet.