Letter to a Colleague
The Merits of Project-based Science
Tis the grant writing season! Along with the application ritual of grant writing is the benefit of the opportunity its opens for us as educators to innovate in our classrooms. The process of writing grants helps the teacher to coalesce thoughts about doing inquiry, creates new methodologies to employ in the classroom and extracts the effort needed by the teachers to achieve greater understanding and achievement by all students in the classroom.
Grant applications demand that teachers formalize their new curriculum ideas into structured projects which are the means by which learning is achieved. Once the projects are realized then the innovation occurs and it fuels new models for learning science in the 21st century classroom.
The process of science is not complete without repeated trial-and-error, therefore attempts to continually bring projects-based science into the classroom is a fundamentally necessary first step for all science educators. It is the crucial step necessary to create the type of learning environments expressed in the published writing of Next Generation Science Standards.
My experience with developing long-term research projects is that it opens up a slew of concerns for the students’ skills and abilities. The process we go through as educators is similar to watching a child learn how to walk with trial-and-error, discomfort and ultimate success. Our students need to develop, within themselves, the self-efficacy to take the initiatives and explore for themselves their own learning. This is a difficult but necessary attribute to develop within each of our students. To have a quizzical nature wanting to learn and figure things out is the essence of what needs to be accomplished. This takes practice, time and commitment. The learning environment created in the classroom helps to determine the effort needed by students to achieve and be successful. Long-term research projects integrated with real-world problems provide the means by which students can produce solutions and become experts with respect to both the subject matter and the scientific investigation.
Aquaponics, hydroponics, greenhouse production and worm farm harvesting are tools and projects we can use to bring changes in the way our students learn science. The Life Sciences as expressed in NGSS can be brought into the classroom through these long-term science projects. This will require students to develop solutions to problems related to the studying the growth of plants, developing optimal fertilization processes and producing high quality natural liquid organic fertilizer.
Grant awards can help support our efforts in the classroom as teachers to become experts in the development of new 21st century models of learning in the classroom. As presenters at the National Science Teachers Convention, we can share our experiences and network with similarly minded teachers from across America. I would encourage that we apply, by April 15th and be presenters at the 2014 National Convention in Boston. The most current grant application under consideration is due April 30th. These are two incredible opportunities that we can capitalize upon to help bring to Streamwood High School 21st century models for learning by all students in science.