Keeping It Real

Project based learning sounds like an educator’s way of keeping it real. At least that’s what I heard in the podcast. I liked how the guys talked about getting the learning out of the textbooks and into reality. Lori shared a great example of project based learning at her house. I want to go the other direction and talk about examples from the school perspective.

I recently chatted with Dorene McCart who is the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Wayne Community School in Corydon, Iowa. Dorene does an outstanding job of giving her students opportunities to show to a larger audience, than just herself, what they can do. Students in the foods classes keep the kitchens humming year round. They prepare food for: volleyball tournament, National Honor Society induction, community play, community programs, prom, etc. They go through the planning process, make decisions, write out market orders, prepare the food, and serve. And talk about keeping it real – the students plan meals for a family of 4 for a week and are able to figure the cost per serving.

My favorite example from Dorene’s long list has to do with used clothing. A woman who moved to the community from New York City was amazed at the clothes available through the used clothing center. She approached Dorene about how the students could help in spreading the word about this resource. The students first studied the elements of design. Then they went to the center and chose 10 outfits with accessories. Students invited their mothers and grandmothers to a specially prepared lunch and presented a style show in their economical, but fashionable clothing.

There you have project based learning in a nutshell. A person saw a problem or issue. A product evolved into a project which was integrated into what the community already had – an underused clothing center, a classroom of eager students, and an innovative teacher. This is keeping it real. This is keeping it connected to the street.

What’s going on at your school that fits the concept of project based learning?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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