Think about one of the most engaging activities you experienced as a learner.
Mine was the ‘egg drop’; a simple challenge to protect an egg from splattering into a million pieces after a one story fall. My team used cardboard, duct tape, shrink wrap and rubberbands to protect ours.
I still can’t remember if it splattered or not.
What I do remember is that most learning experiences in physics class weren’t like this. Most consisted of worksheets, textbooks, videos, and a teacher lecturing from the front of the room.
If learning was a four course meal, fun activities like the egg drop were usually saved for ‘dessert.’
But what if we could make experiences like these the main course?
We can. And it requires only one simple shift…
Instead of designing learning around a fixed activity, we instead design around one open and wondrous question.
A DRIVING/ESSENTIAL QUESTION can ignite curiosity, address standards, and produce authentic outcomes for your students all at the same time. It can transform a one off activity into a four course meal.
Below are four sample questions that transformed classrooms just like yours:
Driving Question: How can we design a successful Rover expedition to Mars?
Content: Physics, Astronomy, Complex Algebra, Programming, Marketing
The egg drop challenge lasts one day. This ‘Mission to Mars’ project lasts 6 weeks. Students act as Space companies (similar to Elon Musks ‘Space X’) and construct rovers, expeditions, and operational plans for a Mission to Mars. In the process, they learn the composition of different planets, physics required for space travel, and business savvy needed to make the trip happen.
Driving Question: What makes a ‘perfect school,’ and how can we create one?
Content: Finance, Budgeting, CAD Design, Persuasive Writing, Scale Drawing
At Baker N Bloom Academy in Hong Kong, year 5/6 students spent the last 7 weeks designing their ‘perfect school.’ From budgeting and design, to underlying values/ethos, students had to think like architects and admissions officers. They even learned persuasive writing techniques though writing marketing letters to prospective students. This DEEP learning experience was the perfect foundation for building 21st century skills in Catroiona Woodward’s class. Pictured above are students pitching their ideas to potential investors; their parents!
Driving Question: Can bees solve puzzles, and do they have personalities?
Content: Scientific process/investigation, biological science, qualitative/quantitative data analysis
Children come up with the most creative questions. The question above was devised by 8-10 year old students in Dave Strudwick’s class while working with a real scientist to study the foraging patterns of bees in Blackawton, UK. To answer it, they devised a series of puzzles for the bees to solve inside a ‘bee arena’ they built out of plexiglass. In the process, they had to learn about variables, control groups, experiment conditions and peer review. Why? Because their findings were published in a professional journal! Check it out here.
Driving Question: How can class elections help us better understand the electoral process?
Content: Law making, government procedure, legislative process, public speaking, informational writing, propaganda, argumentative reasoning
This 6 week 5th grade learning experience at St. Mary’s Elementary School ran congruently to the 2020 US Elections; except these kids weren’t running for presidential office, but class officers. They created campaigns, gathered delegates, formulated positions, conducted debates, and wrote/ delivered persuasive speeches. They even got the whole school involved to vote as delegates in the primaries. In the process, they learned the complexities of the electoral process. Learn more about the DEEP learning experience here.
Level Up Your Learning Experiences!
How will you level up your learning experiences?
Sign up for the self-paced Project-Based Learning Course where you will learn how to transform your fun ‘one-off’ activities into into DEEP, Project-Based experiences through 5 simple steps.Learn More About the Design PBL Course