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Empowering Students to Make a Difference Through Project-Based Learning

By Lula Guilbert

Who knew that studying ecosystems could be so empowering?

In our How We Share the Planet unit, students were charged with identifying a problem in an ecosystem and taking an action that would help that ecosystem. The students had to document their action and do a presentation for the class. When they came in and made their presentations, we were blown away by the variety and depth of their action choices. Several students devoted time to cleaning up ecosystems that they cared about – like local parks and rivers. Other students constructed pollinator gardens and birdhouses to help meet the needs of animals in an ecosystem. Still others worked on projects that aimed to educate people on issues like littering and invasive species. One student, when seeing how much litter was around her town, interviewed her city council representative to alert him to the problem and suggest some ways to build awareness.

As second and third grade students, they were empowered to take actions that were meaningful to them and had a real impact in their communities. This is a lesson that they will carry with them as they continue their educational and life journeys. I am so proud to be a part of those journeys.

In the IB curriculum, summative projects provide an opportunity for students to synthesize their learning in a unit.  They vary in form and always have an element of creativity and problem solving. Though each student receives the same guidelines for the project, what they create is a unique expression of them as learners.  It’s always amazing to see where students take their projects.  In this case, it was city council.  Who knows what’s next for our empowered learners?