What is Project Based Learning?
The theoretical framework underlying the Project Approach is based on constructivist perspectives (Dewey; Piaget; Vygotsky,) and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009) that promote important educational goals (Katz & Chard, 2000). These frameworks emphasize that children learn by doing and construct knowledge by extending their experiences.
PBL is Learning by doing!!!
Children learn new concepts by doing in project activities as well as adopting, revisiting, and representing these concepts. Katz and Chard (2000) recommended implementing the Project Approach in preschools by utilizing three phases: beginning a project, developing a project, and the concluding phase.
The Project Approach in the Early Years, 2nd Edition 2010 [Judy Harris Helm, Lillian G. Katz]
How did we do it?
We took the process one step at a time.
Phase I: Beginning the project
Choosing the topic. Thinking of something that will catch the children’s attention related to the topic Animales Autóctonos de la Argentina was the first challenge. We thought of the popular song La vicuñita as a starting point. After watching a music video of the song , the children were so curious to get to know more about this animal, to keep researching, and asking more questions. It provided us with an opportunity to create some driving questions that would result in a real world product.
Driving questions Creating a list of the questions the children want to answer or find out by the end of the project-How can we save the Vicuña from the hunters?-Why do hunters want to kill the Vicuñas?-Are the Vicuñas endangered? How can we help them?
Phase II: Developing the project
The in-depth investigations are essential activities in this phase. Visiting field sites and experts are the two components of investigations (Katz & Chard, 2000).
Critical Thinking and Research: Investigating about the physical characteristics of vicuñas and their habitat (Norte Argentino/La Puna) on the Internet. Looking at the map of Argentina /Google Earth-/Google Maps. Discussions, lists of questions to help children focus on the investigation of the topic. Field Trip to the Zoo focused on Animales Autoctonos to meet the Vicuñas! Resources to help stimulate children’s interests such as Topic-related books, pictures, photographs, parents’ contributions from home . Research about the Vicuñas and the reason why they are endangered, finding the reason why the hunters are killing them. Contacting Dr. Bibiana Vilá via mail (CONICET) who sent us various videos and links (Las vicuñas! Manual de conservación y uso sustentable. Fundación VICAM) vital for our research
Visits from experts. Los guardianes de la tierra. Special lesson about the Vicuñas and the way to protect them. *Federico Leers and his wife. They showed us the process of transforming the fine wool of the vicuña into fibers to make clothes. Federico also gave us a lesson on how to take care of the vicuñas , so that they don’t hunt them and kill them for their fine wool. He showed us pictures of a method called CHAKU and the children could see how they shear the wool and take good care of the vicuñas while they do it.
Collaboration Bringing information from home about the vicuña as well as encouraging parents about the awareness of the hunting of the Vicuña and finding out the reason why they are in danger of extinction.Engaging families.Working with families, pupils of both shifts and teachers collaboratively.
Phase III: Concluding the project
Communication Sharing explorations and research
Evidence of children’s learning Building a maquette/backdrop that resembles the habitat of the Vicuña to then play or act out the song/life/problems of the vicuña.
Based on a popular story the children had worked on called “The three Billy Goats Gruff”, they made a new version of the story changing the characters for three vicuñitas and a Hunter.
Making up a song based on the original popular song about La vicuñita;Changing the lyrics. with the new info they have found. Making a video with the song sharing it with other teachers and schools,performing the song, Roleplaying CHAKU
Presentation of children´s learning:
Presenting the problem together with the solution they’ve found out after researching and investigating to help save the vicuñas from the hunters to families, children of other classes, parents in the open day and by mail to Dr Vila , who is the expert in the conservation of the vicuñas in our country.Performing the dramatic play of the Chaku (Method used to shear the vicuñas without killing them) Display the maquette/model. Instagram for parents
The Project Approach provided us with the opportunity to actively engage the children to construct their knowledge through their own investigations, explorations, interests and inquiries.