Monday, June 8, 2009

discovering project-based learning

A continuation of my post on project-based learning. I am using this as a reference for myself, but please comment if you'd like.

In reading more over at Camp Creek, here are some points
about project-based learning that resonated with me.
  • project learning is to help a child connect with her work
  • as a parent, your work is to learn about your child, how she learns, and how you can support her
  • project learning is about how to learn and allowing the child to be in charge of his or her own learning
  • project learning fosters independence
This other post over at Camp Creek, which explains how some shells gifted from grandparent's becomes an entry point to a project with younger children. As a parent, it is your job to recognize an interest and gently kindle that interest. Pickert suggests putting "those shells out on a tray with a magnifying glass, a notebook, and some colored pencils" or with some clay or a field guide or pose a question that provides a continuum from the initial spark. These are also called "provocations". These provocations allow children to make their own discoveries and "encourage habits of curiosity and interest". Pickert further discusses "creating an environment of possibility, which is a "dynamic, ever-evolving environment where anything could happen." She further recommends adding "books, sketchbooks, journals, music, cozy nooks, science tools, field guides, binoculars and most important, room to work."

As I read through the resources offered at Camp Creek, this entry about white space really connected with my own thoughts. Below is the entire entry as it is something that I know I will need to refer back to every now and then.

When you look at a page, white space is the empty space that surrounds the text.

White space is very important. The amount of white space can make the text more legible. It can highlight a poem. It can set things off, emphasize them.

When there isn’t enough white space, the text can be hard to read, hard to understand. The page is cluttered; the brain has a hard time sorting out what’s there.

When we talk about overscheduled kids, I think about white space.

When we talk about project learning, I think about white space.

When we cram too many experiences into a child’s day/week/life, we don’t leave time for them to think about what they’ve experienced — they just move on to the next thing, letting the previous thing drop away.

(This is true for ourselves, too, of course.)

When children are learning through projects, their interest and engagement and production of work will naturally ebb and flow. It’s not factory work — it doesn’t happen at a single, steady pace. It’s creative work — it requires thinking, and having ideas, and mulling things over, and a change of pace now and then.

What is white space in a project? Doing something else for awhile … turning your attention to a different problem … relaxing … reading … being bored … maybe simply slowing the pace for awhile.

Refilling the well, being inspired, making connections, reflecting … these aren’t things that are easily acknowledged and checked off a list. They need time — empty, unfilled, unscheduled time. White space.

Without the white space, there’s no balance.

Rather than thinking about quantity — of ideas, of experiences, of work produced — we need to think about quality. Spending more time doing less, so we can do better and appreciate more. A single experience, really and truly had and understood, is more valuable than weeks and weeks of rushed, unconnected, random experiences.

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