Project Based Learning (PBL) is learning through doing. Students are challenged to move from problem to solution through a series of task-oriented steps we call the Cubs Create Design Cycle. They are encouraged to “ask” questions about the big idea or problem and its significance in everyday life. Students then “research and imagine” what solutions have already been proposed and what improvements can be made. Once they see that there is a space for innovation, students begin to “plan and create” a product that is not only purposeful, but also marketable for the needs of our community, whether that “product” is a better way to explain issues of Catholic social justice or a self-watering flower pot created on one of our 3D printers. Growth and improvement are important parts of the learning process, so students utilize peer and teacher feedback to “evaluate” their project, revise, and ultimately “improve.” This collaborative process creates lifelong learners by igniting a curiosity about the world around them. The skills gained through PBL and the Design Cycle also position them for success in college and the workforce.
Eighth Grade Physical Science Project
Eighth grade students in physical science were studying simple machines when they began a project to create their own ADA compliant playgrounds. They followed the steps of the Design Cycle:
Ask: Students were asked to think about what simple machines already exist in playground equipment today. They were challenged to design equipment that would be functional, enjoyable, and affordable.
Research: They researched playground equipment from all over the world. As religion is a crucial element to Mount Carmel Academy's STEAM-based learning, students were also reminded to respect the dignity of all humans and research ADA requirements for inclusive and accessible equipment for children with disabilities.
Imagine: They began thinking about their own playground equipment, focusing on how to incorporate a simple machine and how to make it accessible to all children.
Plan: Each group chose a simple machine for their design. They considered many factors. Does it exist? Is it new? Is it safe?
Create: The groups designed their 3D models and printed their equipment in the Phyllis M. Taylor Maker Lab. Each class then combined their models and assembled a working playground.
Evaluate: A playground committee examined each piece of equipment and determine if it would be safe and accessible.
Improve: The projects that are not approved by the playground committee were redesigned and reprinted. Students assembled their revised playground on foam board and presented it to their class. They discussed why they created their model and how it is safe and inclusive.