Project Based Learning for Social Studies

Instructor: Derek Hughes
Social studies is a subject that lends itself well to project-based learning. This lesson will explore some ways to incorporate project-based learning in a social studies classroom.

Project-Based Learning Defined

Project-based learning, or PBL, is a learning method in which students seek to answer a key question through research, synthesis, and presentation. This type of learning puts students in control of divining a question, seeking out information about their topic, developing solutions, and presenting an answer to their key question. In project-based learning, the teacher serves as a guide for students.

Though PBL is not always compatible with all subjects, it is particularly useful in social studies learning. Students can answer key questions associated with economics, civic responsibility, history, and community. This lesson will detail several projects that bring project-based learning to the social studies classroom.

It is important to remember that traditional lessons also have their place in the social studies classroom. These projects can help to enhance and supplement learning, but should always be used in conjunction with other types of learning and teaching. There are some topics that can't (and shouldn't) be covered through project-based learning. Project-based learning can be an incredibly useful tool in bringing variety and excitement to the social studies classroom.

Community Issues Solved

Each year, students look forward to having class with Mr. May. He's known throughout the school for providing alternatives to lecture-based learning in his social studies classes. Specifically, he uses project-based learning to supplement his lectures.

Students entering Mr. May's social studies classes are introduced to their first project at the beginning of the summer break before fall classes start. Students are tasked with finding something in their community they would like to change. When students begin classes in the autumn, they are ready to begin their research to find ways to enact the change they want to see.

This kind of project can be done in a social studies classroom at many different grade levels. The only modifications that need to be made is the level of teacher guidance and interaction with students. However, after those modifications are made, you will be surprised at what questions and answers your students find when doing this project.

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