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Learning by Doing
Handing over the reins in project-based learning By Crystal Vaught and Jennifer TeHuki 05-Jan-17
There is no better way to learn about the interconnectedness of our world than by experiencing it. We want our students to stay curious—curious about what they like, what they want to make and do, and why they want to do it. At Mont’Kiara International School (M’KIS), our social studies curriculum capitalizes on this curiosity through project-based learning (PBL) units. Teachers encourage hands-on learning where students study meaningful content, have voice and choice in their learning, and apply their 21st-century skills as they gain knowledge and an understanding of difficult concepts. These projects happen to come in many forms throughout our school. In Grade 2, our first PBL project is in the Goods and Services Unit. For five weeks in September and October, Grade 2 students were busy understanding how goods and services are produced, consumed, and exchanged to satisfy the needs and wants of their community. Learning targets for this unit focus on the fundamental economic principles of how people organize the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services in different economic systems. Our students began by learning the vocabulary of wants versus needs, producers versus consumers, and goods versus services. Once the vocabulary was understood, the reins were turned over to the students to decide the course of the project. Each class was given the task of choosing one good and one service to produce. Students brainstormed a long list of many fantastic ideas, ultimately whittling it down to three choices. They became effective communicators, arguing for or against a particular good or service until only three remained of each. They then sent out a market research survey via Google Forms to see what their customers might like to buy. Once other classes voted, students debated costs and consumer demands. Classes were divided into teams, half producing a good and half producing a service. They looked up recipes, explored various prototypes and models, and asked “experts” for help. Next up, the creative part: marketing and advertising. Using iMovie, students made commercials explaining three truthful reasons why consumers should buy their product. They wrote jingles, created images, and showed their commercials to the third-grade classes while pitching their products. Students collated pre-order form data and gave each team a sales expectation. Before business start-up began, students contacted the “bank” (aka, the Elementary School Office) for a business loan. They used the money to buy any ingredients that were needed. Then they set about baking gingerbread men, making slime and bookmarks, and setting up treasure hunts and fitness games. When these business initiatives didn’t go according to plan, students had to be critical thinkers to complete their final product. This was the messy but fun part of the project. Finally, it was time for the big sale! Focusing on customer service, students made sure needs were met and also took some time to be customers themselves. At the end of the day, they counted up how much money they had made, paid back the bank loan, and brainstormed what to do with their profit. Our involved citizens decided to donate their earnings to Helping Hands and to the Siamsin Learning Center with Chin State Refugees. The donation was presented to a Helping Hands representative. While the concepts of economics are complex, students experienced these complexities and came to understand the workings of a business through this PBL. They were in charge of the systematic gathering and interpretation of information, production of the goods and services, and the marketing and sales of their items. Transforming this learning experience from a teacher-directed lesson to a hands-on interactive project created ownership that ensured students were interested and invested in this process. Students learned about economic concepts and had practice in negotiating partnerships, groups, customers, and opposing opinions. These are skills that are genuinely relevant to our students and our world. Next year, we hope to expand our customer base by inviting parents to come shop, support our budding entrepreneurs, and see for themselves all that their children are learning. We think everyone will be able to attest along with our Grade 2 students that experience truly is the best teacher. Crystal Vaught is Assistant Principal in the Elementary School at M’KIS and Jennifer TeHuki is the Grade 2 team leader.
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02/19/2017 - Kumar Verma
Great approach. How are you ensuring the alignment towards standards?
Also, to offer such a high quality emergent curriculum requires a high level of expertise within teachers. I assume that has also been effectively and consistently addressed.