What is Project?
Before incorporating the Project Approach into our curriculum, Rohan Woods faculty and staff visited and studied at Duke School in Durham, North Carolina – a leader in Project Learning. Last year Rohan Woods implemented Project into our classrooms with an approach utilizing the best practices. Rohan Woods School uses Project in class to provide in-depth investigations that challenge students to apply skills, knowledge, and strategies from different content areas as they do authentic research, analyze data, think deeply about problems and draw conclusions. As projects evolve, students build on their unique interests and talents and become experts in a particular area of the project topic. Through project work students not only learn new concepts and content, they develop the competencies essential for future learning: the ability to formulate essential questions, conduct research both independently and collaboratively, evaluate and synthesize results, present those results to others, and reflect on the strengths of their work and the ways they can improve. Project provides a platform for engaging students with challenging academics that put the emphasis on student involvement. This approach also encourages leadership skill development in teamwork, planning and presentation.
Project Approach Model
Rohan Woods School bases its project work on the Project Approach model developed by Lilian Katz and Sylvia Chard. Katz and Chard define a project as an in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of the children’s attention and effort (Chard, 1998). The Project Approach projects follow four distinct stages:
- STAGE 1: PRELIMINARY PLANNING
The teacher selects a real-world topic based on student interest, the school’s curriculum standards, and the availability of resources. Using their experience, knowledge and ideas, the teacher represents them on a topic web.
- STAGE 2: BEGINNING A PROJECT
The teacher uses an activity or discussion as a springboard to discover what students know about the topic. Frequently, the teacher e-mails parents, encouraging them to talk to children about the topic and share any relevant expertise. Students share their stories at school and represent their knowledge through drawing, writing, photography, drama and oral sharing and their representations are posted throughout the room. As a result of this phase, student questions begin to emerge. Teachers post these questions and wonderings along with the children’s representations. These can be amended or added to as the project progresses. During this phase, the teacher evaluates the students’ abilities to discuss their knowledge and formulate important questions.
- STAGE 3: DEVELOPING A PROJECT
Teachers arrange for students to do field work and interview guest experts to answer their questions. The teacher also provides resources at school to help children with their investigations. These resources many include real objects, print, videos, or internet resources. At times, students will do the same field work; at other times research will differ depending on the interests and abilities of students. As students make and carry out plans, record observations, collect data, interview experts and conduct experiments, they represent what they learn and teachers help students post it in the classroom. Each day, the class discusses what students learn, which often leads to new questions. The teacher evaluates each student’s planning, follow-through, details in observation, research, ability to apply academic skills, and ability to work cooperatively with others.
- STAGE 4: CONCLUDING A PROJECT
Teachers and students plan and prepare for a culminating event during which each student or small group of students take the role of experts and share with others what they have learned. Teachers help students select material to share and involve them in reviewing and evaluating their work. They also help them select the method by which they will share their knowledge, which allows students to capitalize on their interests and talents.