Brett (AKA:Mr.T) supervises a challenge.
In reading through the materials on project, challenge, and problem based learning, I’m not sure I see a real distinction between the three. I’m not sure that I am supposed to see one at all. I do see the appeal of setting goals for students that are based on real-life situations.
This year was the first time I spent all of my time in math and science classrooms. Prior to this I taught third grade, ESL, and world language classes. Teaching grade three probably gave me the best chance to engage my kids in some PBL/CBL-style situations, but I was too wrapped up in teaching reading and writing that I may have missed my shot. I feel pretty confident saying that the grade 8 students at our school will tell you that they’ve been engaged in a lot of problem solving and project-based learning this school year.
They’ve generated electricity using steam engines constructed from soda cans. They’ve modeled true situations using their knowledge of exponential growth. They’ve build windmills from paper and currently they are analyzing the methods used in the ongoing search for the missing Malaysian airliner for the science unit on waves.
A lot of these ideas were generated by my co-teachers, who have put a lot of effort into giving our lessons context. I really respect them for this. I can’t take credit for cooking up these schemes, but I have put my efforts into making these lessons as accessible as possible for our English language learners-and it hasn’t been pretty. In fact, the whole process has been rather ugly. The three of us have been learning how to present challenge/problem/project based lessons as we go. There have been some pretty tense times throughout the course of the school year, but I’m glad that we have continued to attempt to provide genuinely engaging lessons and eschewing paint-by-numbers teaching as much as possible.
I know that I have been referencing my co-teachers a lot on the blog, but co-teaching is my reality. So, once again… thank you Brett and thank you Ryan. You have taught me as much as you’ve taught the students this year.