This post contains links to my business website, Shining Dawn Books. Read more about my disclosure policy here.
Project-based learning goes with any subject at just about any time. Really. Since nature study is so near and dear to my heart, I’ll take a little time today to show you how to take a regular ol’ walk and turn it into project-based learning.
Note: Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, turning a nature walk into PBL wouldn’t have been Ms. Mason’s cup of tea. Her nature study methods are based much more on simple, yet detailed observation and documentation. However, because her methods encourage a great deal of inquiry, I’ve found my children naturally crave to dive deeper into their discoveries. Projects have been a wonderful way to give my children a learning path on which to explore.
My NaturExplorers studies were written to celebrate both the traditional Charlotte Mason style of nature study and the inquiry-based exploration of project-based learning. Which ever style you prefer, any of the 19 studies can be perfect for you. You simply pick and choose what you and/or your children want to. A simple walk, nature journaling, in-depth walks, experimentation, creating models, designing research projects…
Project-Based Learning in Nature
Now, on to some practical examples of adding project-based learning to nature study:
- Let’s say you’ve come across a hill of active ants in your backyard. Your son is fascinated, making all kinds of observations and asking questions. LISTEN FOR QUESTIONS! Questions lead to inquiry-based learning, which is very easily turned into project-based learning. You say…
Honey, I just heard you ask about what ants like to eat best. How can we find out? Yes, let’s run into the house and gather a small bag of foods. (A few minutes later) How will we determine which foods they like best? OK, let’s place all the various foods around the ants’ paths and see which foods they flock to. Should we document this? How? Yes, good idea! We’ll draw pictures/make a graph/draw a diagram of what happens. Of course we can show dad the results when he gets home!
- Now, let’s suppose you are headed to the local arboretum. This time, you’ve planned ahead for the project and have packed a few supplies. After a few minutes of free exploration, you say…
I have a fun project for us to do today! Each one of us will create a scavenger hunt of nature related items in the arboretum. Then, we’ll exchange papers and see who is the first to complete the scavenger hunt they’ve been given.
Pull out clipboards, nature scavenger hunt printables and pencils. Set a time limit and boundary lines for creating the hunts, then race to the finish! This super-fun project encourages nature identification, attention to detail, critical thinking, writing and drawing, and physical exercise. Not bad for an hour in the sunshine, huh?
- One more. This one uses a nature walk to springboard an at-home project. On a nature walk through the local nature preserve, you notice several trees full of tent caterpillar webs. You and your daughter begin to notice that only certain trees house these tents. Your daughter is very interested in what will come out of these and you know that these little critters have the potential to cause major damage to the trees once they hatch. So, you say…
Honey, I’m not sure why these tents are only on certain trees or what exactly will come out of the webs soon. I do know, though, that these little creatures can do some damage. I have a great idea…why don’t we ditch regular writing and science lessons for the next two or three days so you have some time to research these caterpillars and put together a project to teach the rest of us about them?
I wrote an entire 10 Days of Nature Study Series that gives you TEN more ideas for nature walks and follow-up activities that you might like to read!
Don’t miss tomorrow! I’ll share a HUGE list of go-to project-based learning ideas!
This post has been linked to iHN’s Spring Blog Hop. Be sure to click on the graphic above to find 10 Days series by some of your favorite homeschool bloggers.
Show-what-you-know projects have been super motivating for my children. Why? With these projects, my kiddos pretty much get a few simple guidelines then have free reign to put together whatever type of project and/or presentation they want…as long as they SHOW WHAT THEY KNOW and show it thoroughly and knowledgeably.
How Show-What-You-Know Works
Just like everything else with homeschooling, show-what-you-know can work in whatever way floats your family’s boat. I’ll share a few examples and let your imagination take over from there.
Project-based learning is partly about freedom for your child. Freedom to make some decisions about what to study; freedom to make some project decisions; and freedom to work in ways that motivate them to dive deep into a subject. In all our PBL, I try to keep my children involved with at least some of the decision making. In show-what-you-know projects, my children have the most leeway from start to finish.
Some Practical Examples:
End of Year “Test”
After studying chemistry in upper elementary and middle school, I told my two big kids that their “final exam” would be a presentation. The only parameters were to make it clear they understood the main concept from each and every chapter we had studied throughout the year.
They chose to put together a science show. Each chapter’s content was demonstrated through an experiment with thorough explanations of how/why the experiments worked. On their own, they put together informational posters, wore “scientist gear”, and shared the responsibility of presenting experiments and explanations.
With the research and review involved in this project, there was truly no need at all for a “real” test.
History Culminating Project
Culminating simply means “ending.” My son is currently at the end of a Revolutionary War study. He’s working on a technology presentation as his show-what-you-know project. Through a Power Point presentation, he has to show that he really understood the importance of the war, as well as important events and important people. Once it’s finished, he will be posting it on his YouTube channel. This a great project for him to show comprehension, practice a unique style of writing, and learn a new technology skill.
Once upon a time, my children were convinced they already knew enough about a subject and pleaded with me to skip learning about it. How can a homeschool mom possibly consider skipping something? Easy! I told them, “Okay, you have one week to prove to me that you “get” it. At the end of the week, you better have a knock-out show-what-you-know project. If so, we skip it. If not, you’ll get double duty work to catch up.
Um, they got it. Since this was a science topic, they again chose to prove their knowledge through a series of experiments and explanations. Time saved.
Where to Add Show-What-You-Know Projects
- At the end of a unit study
- At the end of a chapter in a textbook
- As a final exam
- In place of normal work (like textbook reading and/or worksheets) – especially if your child claims he already knows it
- Before a unit study – so you can pinpoint what your children already know and what truly needs to be covered
I’m not going to take time in this series to talk about how I hold my children accountable during project based learning, but I will mention that we ALWAYS work together to set up a guide of what an acceptable project will contain. We sometimes make rubrics together, but usually just list the criteria for what mom will accept. If the project doesn’t meet that expectation, the kids have work to do to get the project up to par.
Join me tomorrow for project-based nature study ideas!
This post has been linked to iHN’s Spring Blog Hop. Be sure to click the graphic above to find other 10 Days series by some of your favorite homeschool bloggers.
This post contains links to my business website, Shining Dawn Books.
Welcome back to the second week of Practical Project-Based Learning! Today’s topic: Long-Term Project Ideas. A long-term project, although similar to real-life projects, would be considered something that takes at least three weeks to complete. Because of the time investment, though, real-life skills are inevitably included. This means real-life projects and long-term projects are tad difficult to distinguish – but it doesn’t really matter in the long run.
Long-Term Project Ideas
- Garden to Make Recipes – Or, better yet, garden to sell or preserve the produce.
- Construction Project – Big or little, it doesn’t really matter.
- Learn and Perform and Instrument – This could even be under the instruction of a music teacher.
- Write and/or Perform in a Play, Musical, etc. – Again, under the instruction of a drama or music teacher is perfectly fine.
- Work Toward Sports Goals – Coaches and/or trainers can help.
- Collect and Analyze Data – anything really…Ex. Research the number of house fires in your town each month over the last three years. Create at least one type of graph to illustrate your research. So you find any trends? What could be the contributing factors to the trends?
- Research and Communicate Ideas or Information with Others Through a Speech, YouTube Video, Power Point Presentation, Novel, Non-Fiction Book, Advertising Campaign, etc. – My son is currently working on researching the Revolutionary War and designing an educational Power Point presentation that he will link to YouTube.
- Prepare For and Teach a Class – This could be as simple as your 6th grader teaching one PK Sunday School class, or as difficult as your high school student preparing to teach an entire semester course for a 4-H club.
- Plan, Organize and Implement an Art Fair, Science Fair, Geography Fair, etc. – Not just participate in the fair, but organize it from start to finish
- Design and Maintain a Website – Consider the website for personal purposes, to run a small business, or even design and/or maintain websites for others.
- Plan and Implement a Small Business – What is your child passionate about or really good at? Come up with a plan to make a little (or a lot of) money from it.
- Maintain a Checking Account – Having a checking account by middle or high school is wise in order to learn to manage money efficiently before leaving home.
- Dabble in the Stock Market – We haven’t done this yet, but my husband has this in the plans for my two older children.
- Learn a New Handicraft – Learn it for the sake of becoming an expert and maybe even using it as part of a small business venture.
- Nature Study and Documentation Over Several Months or Seasons with a Final Analysis of the Observations – The final project could be in the form of anything…artwork, a report, a chart or graph, a poem…
- Prepare for a Speech or Take Part in a Debate – Co-op classes and 4-H clubs are good places to find these opportunities.
Here’s a Quick Half-Way Through the Series Hint: In order to develop ownership and responsibility in project-based learning, it’s always best to allow your child to be part of the project decision-making process. Don’t simply dole out assignments.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about Show-What-You-Know Projects!
This post has been linked to iHN’s Spring Blog Hop. Be sure to click the graphic above to find several other 10 Days series hosted by some of your favorite homeschool bloggers.
What are Handicrafts?
Quite simply, handicrafts are things you make with your hands. I’ve written a detailed posts about what “counts” as a handicrafts and where to learn how to do them before, so I won’t spend time rewriting all that information here.
I will mention that handicrafts are different than crafts. Handicrafts require the use of a specific skill, like knitting, decoupage or wood working, for instance. In other words, a certain level of understanding and ability need to be attained before a handicraft can be completed well.
That doesn’t mean your child needs to be proficient at a handicraft before completing a project! Learning how to do a skill and practicing it is part of the process. Projects can take place at any point in learning a handicraft.
Here’s where I talk in circles just a bit…
- In project-based learning, the project can be LEARNING the handicraft. For instance, in a study about pioneers, the project might be, “Using a how-to book from the library, make one quilt square in the style of the pioneers.”
- Or, the project can be a handicraft that is SECONDARY to the learning. For example, “Research various types of quilts pioneers would make. Be able to explain three styles and any interesting information about them. Using the skills you already have as a quilter, design and create an authentic pioneer patterned square.”
Handicrafts are not only great real-life, skill-producing project ideas – but I’ve found my children often find new hobbies (or money making skills) in the process.
In this category of handicraft posts, I’ve documented several of our projects over the years.
I also have a handicraft Pinterest board you might like to browse.
Be sure to join me Monday for Long-Term Projects for Project-Based Learning!
This post is linked to iHN’s Spring Blog Hop. Be sure to click on the graphic above to find other 10 Days series by many of your favorite homeschool bloggers.
This post contains links to my business website, Shining Dawn Books.
Our kids eventually have to function in real-life without our daily direction and help, right? To make the transition easier, allow your children to be involved in projects that require real-life situations, real-life problem solving, and real-life answers. The life preparation is fantastic, but I’ve found the motivation to actually complete such projects just as rewarding.
What’s “real-life?” Anything your family deals with on a normal or not-so-normal basis – banking, fixing broken items around the house, planning for events, caring for sibling/animals/grandparents, preparing for big-time purchases, organizing paperwork/clothing/pantries, planning for building projects…the list is really endless.
Real-Life Project Ideas
To help you see what I mean, I’ll give you several examples of real-life projects:
Planning a Party
Party planning takes a lot of thought and effort! It’s a real event that happens in our home at least several times a year between birthdays, holidays and regular old get-togethers. I allow my children to take over as many details as they’d like – menu planning, budgeting, shopping, couponing, planning decorations, decorating, invitations, table settings, cleaning the house, preparing the food, planning activities, etc.
Maintaining a Checking Account
Theirs or yours, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you’re double checking their math if it’s your account! I know parents who allow their children to keep up with paying bills, too. (Not me, not yet.)
Animal Care and Training
All the responsibility for my children’s animals (dogs, cats, chickens, horses) falls on my children. They are expected to feed, water, clean the animals, clean their living spaces, and let us know when food is running low. This took quite some training early on, but they are very responsible at this point. In fact, they now take care of a neighbor’s horses AND get paid!
Science Experiment that Answers an Important Issue in Your Family
Let’s say you’re planning to plant your first garden in a few months. You know you want to plant green beans and celery, but you aren’t sure how to fertilize the soil appropriately. Set your children on task to find the answer. They will research and design an experiment to determine a question like: “Does plant x grow better in acidic, neutral or alkaline soil?”
Planning and Preparing Meals
Meal planning and preparation is a great activity to prepare children for real-life. Besides writing menus and actually preparing food (which are both really good things to do), this kind of project can focus on things like budgeting, couponing, nutritional meals, allergy-free meals, etc.
Budgeting and/or Couponing
Money, money, money. We all wish we had more. Until then, budgeting and/or couponing comes into play for most of us. Start early allowing your children to budget and/or coupon in all sorts of circumstances. Whether they need to save for a special item, or you want them to help you determine how much you have to spend at the grocery this week and create a shopping list accordingly – the more exposure to appropriate use of money the better.
Plan for Raising Money to Send to Missions or Civic Group
Serving others is an important part of Christian living. To help your children take more ownership in serving others, challenge them to find a worthy cause and come up with a plan to raise money for that cause. Start small and you might be surprised at how big these projects eventually become!
I have written Loving Living Math to help parents understand how to add more “real” learning into the math curriculum. It includes an entire section on real-life math. Here’s another example not included in the book: “Prepare a line graph to show your household’s average electric bill per month. In which months do we typically need to expect bigger bills?”
Planning for a household project
Need to build a porch? Does a room need to be painted? Do windows need to be replaced? Involve your children in every stage from planning to producing!
Share your ideas for real-life PBL in the comments!
Join me tomorrow as we take a look at Project-Based Learning with Handicrafts!
This post has been linked to iHN’s Spring Blog Hop. Be sure to click the graphic above to find other 10 Days series by some of your favorite homeschooling bloggers.This post has also been linked to Homeschool High School at The Daisyhead.