Monday, February 25, 2008

Is Project-Based learning a Brain Booster?

What parent can forget the dreaded science project? Even though assigned months ahead of time, science projects have often keep moms and dads up all night the night before they're due.

And the cause of family friction. "Why didn't you start on this last month? What do you mean we have to go to the craft store now? It's already 9 pm. Next year, things will be different. No more of this last minute stuff. And young lady, you're doing it on your own. Do you hear me?"

And what about teacher stress. He'd sure like to have a couple of winners in the district science fair. "Hey, you guys, how're doing on your science projects? You know they're due Thursday. Any questions?"

These science projects are the early prototype of today's popular Project-Based Learning.

But Project-based Learning has come under lots of fire. Does it work? Or is it just "fun." In other words, does it raise test scores--sadly the most often asked question these days.

There's no doubt, however, that Project-Based Learning is a brain-based learning strategy. It's often kinesthetic and requires critical thinking skills, imagination, problem solving, and social skills.

Well, there's good news in Jane David's article. David, Director of the Bay Area Research Group in California, tells us that test scores have gone up. In Britain, three times as many students from Project-Based Learning schools passed the National Exam.

But, it all depends on the project, it's design, the questions asked, and the teacher facilitation. Guess it's not all that different from the well-thought out science project versus the stay-up-all-night variety.

Check out "Reinventing Project-Based Learning:Your Field Guide to Real-world Projects in the Digital Age" by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss for suggestions on meaningful (and we hope test-raising) projects.


Reminder: The Brain Gym Basics TeleChat starts tomorrow night, Tuesday, Feb. 26. Still a couple slots open.

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