55+ real-world project-based studying concepts for all pursuits
Project-based learning is a hot topic in many schools these days as educators work to make learning more meaningful for students. As students undertake hands-on projects that address real-world problems, they dig deeper and make personal connections to the knowledge and skills they acquire. But not just any project fits into this concept. Learn about powerful project-based learning ideas and find examples for every age and passion.
What is project-based learning?
Project-based learning (PBL) uses real-world projects and student-led activities to build knowledge and skills. Children choose a real-world topic that is meaningful to them (some call these “passion projects”) so that they are involved in the process from the start. These projects are long-term, lasting weeks, months, or even an entire semester or school year. Students can complete them independently or work in small groups. Learn a lot more about project-based learning here.
What makes a good PBL project?
Source: Science Lessons That Rock
In many ways, PBL more closely resembles the work adults do in their day-to-day work, particularly because the students’ efforts have potential real-world implications. A strong PBL project:
- Fixes a real problem or problem
- Requires sustained and independent inquiry inside and outside of the classroom
- Allows students a voice and choices throughout the project
- Combines elements of many disciplines
- Includes collaboration with public partners such as universities, community organizations or companies
- Produces a public product seen by people outside of the school community
- Encompasses a full process, including activities such as research, design, production, marketing or public awareness, and attracting supporters or investors
Ideas for project-based outdoor learning
- Create a new local park or improve an existing one by adding new features or performing the necessary maintenance.
- Plant a community garden to provide food for a soup kitchen, pantry, or other organization.
- Design and create a garden for butterflies, pollinators or other wildlife to support the local ecosystem.
- Build a new hiking or biking trail that is safe for people of all ages.
- Develop and implement a way to reduce waste in your community.
- Build and manage a school or community compost heap and distribute the resulting soil to those who need it most.
- Find and help the public find a new way to grow food that uses less soil, water or fertilizers that are in short supply in parts of the world.
- Design, build and install a completely unique piece of playground equipment that serves a specific purpose or need.
Ideas for project-based learning in the school community
- Start a comprehensive school recycling program or significantly increase participation in an existing one.
- Add collaborative artworks like murals or other displays to school hallways, bathrooms or grounds.
- Identify an area or program in your school that needs improvement, then create a plan, gather funds, and implement your ideas.
- Come up with ways to celebrate the diversity of your school and improve relationships among all students.
- Start and operate a school store including inventory, financial plans and marketing.
- Write a handbook about your school for new students with tips and tricks to make them feel at home.
- Find out how you can provide healthier, better tasting meals and snacks in the school cafeteria.
- Implement a mentoring program for older students to help younger students, with planned activities and appropriate training for older students.
- Design and propose a new scoring system that ensures fairness.
- Find ways to improve break time in your school.
- Create and run a new school newspaper, magazine, podcast, video channel, etc.
Project-based learning ideas for larger communities
- Coordinate a community arts project in one central location to celebrate local culture or artists.
- Set up a program for school kids to connect with seniors in nursing homes, hospitals, or retirement homes.
- Create a program to offer free translation services to ESL families in the community.
- Help a local animal shelter improve their facilities or find new ways to reunite homeless pets with their families forever.
- Build and maintain small free libraries in your community, especially in underserved areas.
- Help local businesses become more environmentally conscious, increase sustainability and reduce waste.
- Create and lead a walking tour of your community that highlights culture, history, landmarks and more.
- Find a way to include and celebrate local voices in your community’s history.
- Come up with ideas for welcoming immigrants and other newcomers to your community.
- Set up a series of events that encourage the community to mingle and experience each other’s foods, cultures and more.
- Create and implement a new program to inspire a love of books and reading in preschool children.
- Start a new charity that your community needs and help lead it.
Social issues Project-based learning ideas
- Start an awareness campaign on an issue you care about such as anti-bullying, healthy living, environmental protection, civil rights, equality and justice, etc.
- Think about and implement ways to increase voter turnout in your community, especially among younger voters.
- Write your own TED Talk-style video on a topic that hasn’t been covered before or that you have a unique perspective on and share it with a wider audience.
- Develop and implement ways to amplify unheard voices in your school or community.
- Write a play and perform it publicly that highlights a social issue that is important to you.
- Find areas in your community that challenge people with disabilities and help improve them to meet those challenges.
- Research, write, and publish and defend a position paper on an issue important to your community.
- Select a real court case, then research the law and work with legal experts to prepare and present your own case as you would in a courtroom.
- Write, edit, seek and integrate real-world feedback and publish or present your own book, poem or song on a topic important to you.
- Start a program to teach a specific group (e.g. preschoolers, seniors, business owners) to care for and protect the environment.
- Plan and run a fundraiser to support a cause you care about.
- Choose a law you think is unjust and write, research, and present and defend a position paper on your desired change.
STEM project-based learning ideas
Source: Wildwood School
- Build an app that serves a specific purpose for a specific audience.
- Invent something new that the world needs, then fund, create and sell your product in the community.
- Design a game to help students learn important STEM concepts.
- Find a simple way to improve an existing product, especially if it reduces costs or improves environmental performance.
- Explore ways to reduce the amount of waste we produce, especially plastic and other landfill-bound items.
- Write a book or graphic novel that is entertaining but also teaches kids about science or math.
- Develop new ways to bring clean drinking water to water-stressed communities.
- Build an effective solar oven that allows people to cook during prolonged power outages or in areas where electricity is unavailable.
- Collaborate with a university or STEM organization to collect, analyze, and present real-world scientific data.
- Design a building to meet a specific purpose or need, including researching requirements and zoning laws, accurately drafting a plan, determining cost and presenting the plan to the proposed client.
- Create an interactive hands-on exhibit to teach people about STEM concepts.
- Determine a type of website that you think is missing, then research, create and publish the website you have in mind.