Project Based Learning for Science

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  • 0:04 What Is Project-Based…
  • 0:49 School Conservation Efforts
  • 1:47 Example Class Project
  • 2:58 Science Fair
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derek Hughes
Project-based learning can be a useful tool for teaching science. This lesson will provide some examples and strategies for incorporating this method of teaching into your science classroom.

What Is Project-Based Learning?

Each year, Mr. Darwin begins his science classes by telling his students that they are going to be full-fledged scientists by the end of the year. He is going to help them through this transformation by using project-based learning at several points throughout the year. Project-based learning is a teaching/learning method through which students seek to answer key questions through research, the acquisition and evaluation of information, and the presentation of findings to the instructor or the class as a whole.

In science, this instruction method is particularly applicable because project-based learning and the scientific method share many attributes. This lesson will go through several of the projects Mr. Darwin uses in his class to give you an idea of how you can implement project-based learning in your own classes.

School Conservation Efforts

Firstly, Mr. Darwin challenges his science class to answer the question, ''How can our school become more eco-friendly?'' This project tasks students with seeking out a way in which the school can improve their conservation or recycling efforts, coming up with a specific plan that improves conservation efforts, and constructing an argument for why their plan should be implemented.

For example, one year, a group of students in Mr. Darwin's class investigated how the school can save paper. They found that each year, many teachers ordered new workbooks for their students even though the content of the books was the same as the previous year. These students constructed a plan that explained why conserving paper was important and how the school could cut down on workbook wastefulness.

This project shows how this type of learning closely resembles the scientific method. Mr. Darwin's students identified a problem, proposed a hypothesis, researched their problem, and came up with a solution.

Example Class Project

When Mr. Darwin is teaching his students about evolutionary advantages and adaptation, he assigns them a creature creation project. This assignment seeks to answer the question, ''What would a brand new species of animal look like if discovered in a certain environment?'' Each group is assigned information about their creature's habitat by Mr. Darwin. Students must complete ample research about their critter's environment and what evolutionary adaptations would be most advantageous for it to possess. The final product of this project is an informational pamphlet containing all of the details of their creature, including a visual of the animal.

For example, Mr. Darwin tasked some students with creating a creature that would be found very deep in the ocean. These students first researched other creatures that live in that environment as well as the habitat itself. After gathering this information, they were able to create a creature with evolutionary advantages to help it survive in its environment.

This project helps students practice justifying their answers with scientific data, a skill that is important for any scientist to master. Students learn that anything they assert must be able to be reinforced with the relevant data and examples.

Science Fair

Mr. Darwin also relies on the old stand-by, the classic science fair. Yes, it may be old school, but participating in a science fair is an excellent example of project-based learning. For his science fair, Mr. Darwin lets his students choose from a variety of areas in science from which they draw their key questions. Students then check with Mr. Darwin to see if their key question is suitable and begin their research.

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