Project-based learning in kindergarten can set stage for college and career

Dive Brief:

  • Students need to be able to think critically, ask good questions and transfer knowledge from the classroom to the real world, and Kathy Gomez, superintendent of the Evergreen School District in San Jose, CA, says project-based learning is one way to start developing those skills early.
  • In a column for District Administration, Gomez writes teachers use PBL as early as kindergarten to teach students basic skills and also give them a chance to apply them to real-world settings — like a project where students learn about stray animals and collaboratively devise solutions to the problem and present them to the community.
  • Just as students work together and offer constructive feedback to each other, teachers do the same for professional learning, and Gomez recommends schools that embrace project-based learning also develop alternative ways to measure success, including through surveys that capture changes in school culture.

Dive Insight:

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning emphasizes instruction based on the four Cs: collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. Katherine Smith Elementary School, in Gomez’s district, became a P21 exemplar school for its work with project-based learning. Education fads come and go, but Principal Aaron Brengard said those skills are ones that he knows students will need in life no matter what changes about education or the economy.

New accountability plans developed for the Every Student Succeeds Act may empower even more schools to try project-based learning. When schools and districts can be assessed based on more than just test scores, taking time to develop these creative learning experiences isn’t so dangerous. Katherine Smith Elementary School, for one, has created a range of new assessment tools to show student progress despite continued achievement gaps on state tests. And California’s new accountability dashboard is bound to give them credit for it.

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Filed Under: K12
Top image credit: Flickr; K.W. Barrett