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

Source: @edu21official

  • 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

Source: @woodlandcommunityschool

  • 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

Source: @gardenofpalms

  • 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

Source: @asburyeaglesco

  • 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.

What are your favorite project-based learning ideas? Share your thoughts in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook!

Plus, 25+ meaningful service learning projects for kids and teens.

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