Coming up with fresh ideas for projects isn’t easy. Sure, you can go back and reuse the ones from years prior but like any good bread, they eventually get stale. When using Project-Based Learning, it is incredibly important to get students excited about projects.
While adhering to curriculum and standards, these project ideas can be fitted or adapted to your classroom:
1. How can we make our school more energy efficient?
Here’s an idea that could generate measurable savings for your school while giving students the chance to apply their understanding of energy, math, chemistry, and psychology. Depending on the content focus and grade level, students could investigate everything from energy audits to alternative energy sources and human behavior change. As an extension, students might contribute their results to the Cool School Challenge.
2. How does what we buy affect workers and the environment?
This idea gives students the opportunity to trace the production of multiple products – from clothing to food to computer tablets to vehicles. They can decide to focus on a product they personally buy or that their family purchases. They can then come up with a framework of acceptability as far as workers’ wages, environmental impact, resources needed, and more and come up with a report based on the product and if it meets the criteria to be acceptable. The report could be published on the school’s website or on other community mediums.
3. How can we get kids to go outside more and get away from the TV?
This project challenges students in grades 5-8 to enhance the health of preschool kids and toddlers by coming up with creative ways to encourage more outdoor play. With input from preschool teachers, students can grasp the perspective of the teachers and their students. For final products, students might produce an online guide to local parks or lead play days in which they would demonstrate games or activities to get preschool kids and their caretakers outdoors.
4. How can we help Homeless People learn skills to become employed?
Students are seeing a number of homeless people in their town or city and there are only one or two shelters that help feed them and provide them a place to rest. However, how can they get the skills necessary to gain a job to provide sustainable income and get them off of the street? Students can interview homeless shelter employees, government officials, tertiary education professionals, and develop a plan that can be presented or submitted to local government or nonprofits that will help homeless individuals become employable.
5. Imagine we are urban planners, how can we reimagine empty lots as places of importance in our community?
This project invites students to be innovators and designers. Where do they see opportunities for local improvements? How can they use engineering principles to design and model improved purposes for empty lots or blighted spaces? Student investigations are likely to include surveys, interviews, prototyping, collaboration, and more as they take on this real-world challenge and share their results with local decision-makers and officials. The same project could incorporate social studies or economics by having students consider the stories behind specific places. What used to occupy now-vacant spaces? What changed? What was lost in the construction?
6. How can we help local tourism entrepreneurs market their services and products?
In this project, students take on the role of a local business owner or entrepreneur and assist in developing a marketing plan that will help attract more tourists to their stalls and shops. Students use math, geography, psychology, and critical thinking to analyze patterns, and produce a plan that can be presented to local business owners. For research, students can use surveys, collaboration, real-data, and more as they gather information to come up with their proposed marketing plan.
7. If we were ecologists, how would we solve the problem of an invasive species in our town?
This is a high school science project with a strong local focus. If your town or community is facing an invasive species issue; such as Carp, European Rabbits, Feral Pigs or even plants like kudzu vine or yellow starhistle, this is an excellent idea that will get your students involved in the local community and partner with local organizations. Students will research the issue and propose solutions to an expert panel. They will be expected to defend their solutions based on facts, data, and ethical decision-making, and appeal to stakeholders on all sides of this contentious issue.
8. Acting as Public Officials, how would we spend federal and state funds at a local level?
A project that encourages students to look at community issues and critically think about what challenges can be solved with available resources or what needs to be funded. Students can collaborate over specific topics and propose ideas and budgets for the funds allocated. The public product can be a mock debate or a quorum to have other students vote on a specific public policy.
9. How can we redesign a school space for efficiency and student friendliness?
Here’s an idea suitable for any school that is overdue for a makeover. The idea has built-in constraints to force creativity: proposals must make the building more efficient and student-friendly. Students will apply their understanding of math and art to generate scale drawings, which they’ll pitch to school administrators along with proposed budgets and a justification for the change. Students can also develop prototypes in a makerspace or using an online tool like SketchUp to generate plans.
10. Tackling a Community Health Issue: How can we inform and prevent community members from a specific disease or addiction?
Pending upon what age range, elementary through high school, your class can identify a preventable disease or addiction and plan a campaign to inform the community about the causes, effects, and treatments available. Wide-ranging ideas from preventing diabetes to treating opioid addictions have been used to create informational and participative campaigns. A question that must be asked prior is, are my students significantly interested in a disease or addiction that is relevant to their lives? If it is meaningful and pertinent to their own lives, they will be far more engaged in the project.
Interested in learning more about Project-Based Learning or becoming PBL-Certified? Contact Educators of America today for a free consultation on PBL Certification.