Why ‘project based’ learning is important for younger children

Schools up and down the country are always looking for new ways to challenge and motivate their students, as strict curriculums and heavy testing can weigh down on self confidence and motivation. My children went to a school in London which had an outstanding Ofsted report but it was very conformist and there wasn’t much room for thinking outside the box. Their new school i Norfolk is much more free thinking and when Jimmy goes into reception in September he will be spending 90% of his time outside with a specially built yurt on the field to provide warmth if needed with a wood burning stove. Florence’s year has a touch more traditional teaching but they too take advantage of being outdoors most of the time and the teaching is very different yet she has thrived in both. I don’t know which way is best but it’s a very interesting topic.

Project based learning is coming through as a potential new way of learning in education, and allows more freedom for students on an everyday basis.

The concept is a simple one: allow pupils to be trusted to come to class when they need to, not when a school bell rings. Independent learning is a strong factor in this style of teaching, encouraging students to take charge of their own work and being expected to work collaboratively on projects.

Text books, standardised tests and hour-long lessons will be replaced by creative projects that aim to get pupils thinking outside the box. For example, this could be learning through sand and water in early years education, while in secondary education, a history lesson could be replaced with a group project that has students putting together a play about the Second World War. It will require research and will have to be as accurate in its portrayal of the era as possible, but it’s a more inventive and interactive way of learning.

Project based learning is important as it teaches children the importance of working independently or as part of a team, a skill they will need to develop later in the working world.

However, it’s important to note that not all pupils will enjoy working this way, and each child has a different way of learning. A routine and school bells might feel important to some, who need direction when it comes to their education. The freedom of project based learning might allow some of the lazier students to sit back and let their team do the work for them or they might fall behind because they don’t get enough done themselves.

Project based learning is important, as it helps students develop important skills that they can carry through with them into later life, but it should only be implemented in certain subjects (such as history or science) and sparingly. The school bell and routine is important in a school environment and because every student works differently a mix of teaching methods can help everyone get along.

Many feel that project based learning is most important in primary schools and teachers should be reinventing their classrooms to accommodate it. Studies of the method have discovered that students ‘retain content longer and have a deeper understanding of what they learn’, via project based learning as well as demonstrating better problem solving skills than students who were taught via more traditional methods.

Project based learning is an exceptional tool that should be used more in classrooms. It motivates children, improves their self confidence and encourages them to engage with their peers. The Learn Maker site provides an excellent example of a curriculum supported by project based learning that allows a 10-week plan to be reduced down to a three-week plan with great results.

‘Project Teddy Island’ allows teachers to combine everything the students need to learn into one engaging project that allows them to utilise different skill sets and learn new things.

The project takes something the students understand and pulls it all together into individual projects for each subject. For example, teddy heads out on a voyage (which links to history, as he sets off in the Elizabethan era of discovery) but his boat sinks and he is washed ashore on a desert island which brings in geography and the exploration of a new environment.

Art is tackled via teddy’s interaction with the natives of the island and creating cave paintings; science is taught via the concept of different habitats on the island and DT involves the students making a picnic blanket for teddy to take on his voyage.

This project is a great example of how teachers can encourage both independent and team working, with an easy to follow theme. If you’re working in education, implement project based learning today and watch as the kids blossom with this way of working.

Learning can be achieved in non traditional environments!
Learning can be achieved in non traditional environments!