By Shannon Turner
As a language arts and STEM research teacher, I use project-based learning (PBL) to bring relevance to my lessons so students can learn to apply their knowledge in real-world settings. One way I connect the classroom to the outside world is by making them think they are employees as opposed to students—and I’m the CEO.
When we engage in PBL, normal day-to-day instruction stops, and students get into “show mode” as they work through the tasks. We recently completed Defined STEM’s Agricultural Consultant performance task. The students were transformed into professionals and jumped into their roles as business leaders. They worked in groups to do research on sustainable farming practices and grain bin technology before consolidating their findings.
Just like in the real world, each group had to collaborate to meet the required deadline, and had to present their findings to the CEO (me) and their peers. Doing this allows them to practice their presentation skills, which they will need for college and careers. They knew that they had to come dressed and ready to present on presentation day, and were excited to share what they’d learned (as opposed to taking a test).
Something as easy as dressing up for a presentation encourages students to think about themselves as more than just a kid. It gets them excited about the possibility of their future careers.
The Parent-PBL connection
PBL has allowed parents to become active participants in their child’s education. Parents can help their children with projects at home, and ask questions related to the topic. It opens the door for parents to talk with their children about different career options at a younger age and bridges the gap between school, home, and the real world.
I have an open line of communication with my parents through email, Remind101 text alerts, and a weekly newsletter, so our parents are aware of everything going on inside the classroom. Excellent communication between educators and parents let students know they’re cared about and that their educational journey matters. Because parents stay ahead of classroom happenings, students do not fall behind. This is because the parents already know what’s going on before it even happens, and are able to support their kids by making sure they are prepared for the school day.
Shannon Turner is an 8th-grade STEM research educator at Memorial Middle School in Conyers, GA. As an educator for 18 years, she has also taught language arts and social studies.