Thursday, March 12, 2015

Challenge Based Learning: Possible For All Ages

Challenge Based Learning is all the rage as the next educational endeavor, and for the right reasons. Students select a challenge or problem they identified in society and work to fix it, using skills that cover multiple disciplines. "Challenge Based Learning is collaborative and hands-on, asking students to work with peers, teachers, and experts in their communities and around the world to ask good questions, develop deep subject area knowledge, identify and solve challenges, take action, and share their experience."

Normally, Challenge Based Learning is focused towards high school and middle school levels, and students explore these endeavors individually. However, this is no longer just for older kids! Challenge Based Learning is easily applicable to the elementary classroom. Rather than individually, have the whole class do something together following these simple steps.

  1. Sit the class down and ask them to think about the world. Ask them what problems they see. This could be in the community, the state, or the world. Help encourage the class to come to a consensus. Form an essential question of about 7 words that puts everything into perspective clearly.
  2. Research the cause and look for an organization that helps the cause. As a class, brainstorm what you can do to help the organization. This could be anything from collecting books to having a penny war to raise money.
  3. Over the year, work to get the word out about what you’re doing and gain more support. At the end of the year, have students look over their progress and share the groups success with administrators, peers, colleagues, and the community.
  4. Finally, decompress. Think about what you did and what impact you made. Did you answer your essential question? Are you going to continue next year?
A project like this is a great way to engage students to think globally and combine information they learned in other subjects together. Creating an awareness and teaching kids to care about the world around them will translate beautifully in future years.

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