Project-based learning hails from a tradition of pedagogy which asserts that students learn best by experiencing and solving real-world problems. According to researchers (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008; Thomas, 2000), project-based learning involves the following:

  • students learning knowledge to tackle realistic problems as they would be solved in the real world
  • increased student control over his or her learning
  • teachers serving as coaches and facilitators of inquiry and reflection
  • students (usually, but not always) working in pairs or groups

Project-based learning involves a complex task and some form of student presentation, and/or creating an actual product or artifact.  This type of inquiry-based teaching method engages students in creating, questioning, and revising knowledge, while developing their skills in critical thinking, collaboration, communication, reasoning, synthesis, and resilience (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008).

Studies have proven that when implemented well, project-based learning (PBL) can increase retention of content and improve students’ attitudes towards learning, among other benefits.

This week at St. James Lutheran School, students are concentrating on “The Election.”  Learning academic skills through the context of elections replaces the normal schedule of classes.  On Tuesday, students in grades 1-8 went to the performance of The Kid Who Ran for President at DePaul University. In the play, when sixth grader Judson Moon runs for President of the United States under the guidance of his campaign manager and best friend, Lane, the campaign trail is turned upside down.  St. James students spent time before the play discussing what information they were looking for to incorporate into their own projects.

Middle School

The middle school students (grades 5-8) are working in groups to create a candidate within a specific party.  They were asked to listen for the terminology that the candidate in the play used to campaign for office.  Today they worked on building a campaign using some of the techniques they saw in the play.  On Friday, the middle school groups will be holding campaign rallies for their candidates.

Grades 3-4

The third and fourth grade students were divided into two parties – chocolate and fruity.  Each party has narrowed down from three candidates to one.  After watching the play, students discussed strategies for campaigning.  They started brainstorming campaign slogans, speeches, and ideas for posters.  They will also create commercials to advertise their candidate.  Additionally, students made connections to their Wax Museum president research projects that will be completed in November.

Grades 1-2

In the first and second grade, students have joined a campaign for their “candy bar candidate.”  After watching the play The Kid Who Ran for President they discussed campaign strategies.  Then, students came up with a list of ways the “kid president” became elected through effective campaigning. Students are now creating their own slogan, jingle, and posters for their “candy bar candidate.”

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