Develop an idea for your experiential project based learning experience. Ideally teachers work together with students to determine the best idea for the project. For some projects the teachers determine the projects ahead of time.
Ideas should be developed in a timely manner before the project begins; however, enough flexibility should be considered to alter the course of the project if opportunities arise during the project that add value to the learning.
A good project does not need to include all criteria listed below, but an attempt should be made to implement as many as possible. The more the criteria used, usually a better product is obtained. Not all criteria are appropriate for all projects.
Some criteria to consider when deciding on a project idea - Does the proposed project:
- Do something real? Not a pretend scenario or artificial situation. Something authentic or meaningful.
- Meet a need in your community or region?
- Take advantage of opportunities that arise before or during your project? Example: your students are challenged by a local governmental official to design new recycling plan for your community
- Provide rigor - appropriate level of difficulty and challenge for your age group or grade level?
- Allow for multi-disciplinary learning? Example: blend science and math and writing.
- Consider an appropriate/realistic timeframe for you to finish in the time you have allowed?
- Include experiential opportunities so a chance to have your students develop the project by going out into the community, build or design something, etc.?
- Use world as a classroom, connecting with others/experts and opportunities both digitally and in person?
- Utilize mentors? These are often people with a strong knowledge of the project topic, who can assist the teacher in conducting the project. The teacher does not have to be the content expert. Example: A local anthropologist may mentor students in working on a local archeological dig your students are working on.
- Involve meaningful learning and engagement for all the students involved? Does every student on a team have a meaningful and responsible role.
- Develop inspiration and interest in the students?
- Contain relevant and meaningful ideas or knowledge? Some projects are not worth the time spent.
- Challenge the students to think at a deeper level such as the big picture, systems thinking, design thinking, etc.?
- Have a final product or action that is authentic ore causes change or serves a meaningful purpose?
- Have built in physical and emotional safety for all students?
- Contain a realistic budget?
- Fit within political/cultural guidelines or expectations of your school or community?
Example from Liger:
The first dinosaur footprints were discovered in Cambodia by the Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy in 2016. Students found out about this while interviewing Ministry officials about another project being conducted. Since the government and universities in Cambodia currently do not have the capacity to study such a find, students and staff decided to consider a project around the dinosaur footprint discovery.
The project fit many of the criteria, for example:
- Developing inspiration and interest in the students - developing a brand new discovery in your country is quite motivating. Also, dinosaurs are fascinating to many people in the world, including Liger students!
- Providing rigor with an appropriate level of difficulty and challenge – before starting, students and staff knew nothing about paleontological research methods, communicating a new discovery, etc.
- Use world as a classroom, connecting with others/experts – science experts from around the world helped provide the skills and knowledge needed for the project
- Allow for multi-disciplinary learning –understanding of paleontology included field research, dinosaurs, working with government officials, writing research paper, creating a documentary, interviewing, surveying, reading about dinosaurs, and a lot more.