Project-based learning is great way to get kids to internalize STEM concepts from a book or lecture. Thinking about creating a lesson plan that incorporates PBL? Here are some tips to adapt this approach to students of any age.
Pick an Appropriate Project
Ideally, the project should generate excitement that stays with them after the course is over. This is an opportunity to put them in charge of a narrative or put them in someone else’s shoes. And it’s even better if the "story" ties into curriculum standards or introduces advanced content to get them excited for next year’s content (or AP tests).
You can pick a project ahead of time, or you can incorporate the project selection into the coursework. For example, an earth science teacher could tell students to come up with erosion prevention project suited to their region, or you could spend one class brainstorming about the biggest problems in erosion today.
Make a Supplies List
Planning is everything. Empower your kids to succeed by giving them everything they need for the project. Make a list of the equipment you'll need—and doublecheck it. You don't want to have to run down the hall to get PVC pipe, popsicle sticks, or test tubes in the middle of a class.
And when you look at a material, open your mind. Going back to our erosion prevention example, wax paper isn’t just for cooking. It can be used to test your students’ prototyped solution by applying pressure to sediment under various scenarios.
Prioritize Small-Group Time
PBL doesn’t mean the lecture goes away. Some lecture time is still critical to explain the project and teach relevant content. But we encourage you to commit a large portion of the class to small-group time, which allows the teacher (and the students with greater proficiency) to help those who lag.
Another thing we love about group time is how it can expand kids’ thinking. A group is more than the sum of its members—students can take projects to a whole new level by riffing off each other’s ideas and bringing new context to a project.
Be Ready With Prompts
Even the most resourceful student group can hit a wall. When putting together your lesson plan, brainstorm some prompts for inspiration. Tailor these prompts to the grade of your students, as well as their unique proficiency as a group.
Again, with our erosion example:
Grade the Student and the Group
We recommend building both group and individual assessments into the project. This ensures that everyone is pulling their weight in a group project—and that kids who are struggling will get the help they need.
Make It Interdisciplinary
If you're a physics teacher, for example, coordinate with an English teacher to make sure communication aspects of the project are high-quality. Effective speakers, from the boardroom to the courtroom, incorporate narrative into their talking points, and they don't undermine their efforts with distracting grammatical errors.
Or, ask the math or business teacher down the hall for ideas on making those dimensions of the project more robust. In the real world, people use STEM, business, creativity, and patent law to bring their solutions to market. Try to replicate that interdisciplinary nature in your classroom.
Wrap It Up With a Bang
For the end of the project, organize a Shark Tank-style competition where kids can show off their prototypes, demonstrate their grasp of the concepts, and practice public speaking.
You can also create a peer review process to elicit crowd feedback on each presentation. Circulate feedback collection worksheets with a small number of questions, such as:
We hope this helps! For more insight, check out PatentDive Educator . It’s the first education product to combine STEM, business, creativity, and patent education into one project-based, hands-on curriculum for students.