Project Based Learning

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.

  • We begin with an ASK that gets the students to focus on the big ideas behind what they are learning and why they need it in everyday life.
  • We then RESEARCH what solutions are already available and IMAGINE how we can improve them to better suit our specific needs.
  • Once we identify a space for innovation, we begin to PLAN and CREATE a product that is not only purposeful but also marketable in our community, whether that “product” is a better way to explain issues of Catholic social justice or an ADA compliant playground with a scale-model created on one of our 3D printers.
  • Regardless of the product, there is always room for growth and improvement, so the Design Cycle emphasizes the need to EVALUATE all aspects of their process to IMPROVE. Finally, oral presentations by the student creators allow for constructive feedback from peers to drive this cycle into more productive iterations.

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.

The Design Cycle at Work

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.

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