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Project Design

Project Design

Imagine a classroom where . . .

A first grader says, “I can’t wait to see sloth bears at the zoo and show my brochure to the zookeeper. Maybe the sloth bear at the zoo is four times as big as me!”

A fifth grader asks, “I wonder if the tulips have bloomed in Alaska? I’ll send a message to our e-pals to find out.”

A high school student remarks, “The teleconference with Cornell University will really boost the credibility of our research on songbird migration, maybe we could publish our report?”

A middle school teacher comments, “The organized chaos in my classroom has really paid off. My students have shown a deep understanding of ecosystems and created a newsletter on things everyone can do to protect our native species and habitats. They can’t wait to see their work displayed at the Community Center.”

With assessment and content standards at the forefront of learning, teachers use project approaches to engage students in authentic work and develop 21st- century skills of collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking. When well-designed, project-based curriculum can yield high quality results for students and a rewarding experience for teachers.

Project-Based Learning Defined

Project-based learning is a student-centered, instructional model. It develops content area knowledge and skills through an extended task that promotes student inquiry and authentic demonstrations of learning in products and performances. Project-based curriculum is driven by important Curriculum-Framing Questions that tie content standards and higher-order thinking to real-world contexts.

Project-based units include varied instructional strategies to engage all students regardless of their learning style. Often students collaborate with outside experts and community members to answer questions and gain deeper meaning of the content. Technology is used to support learning. Throughout project work multiple types of assessment are embedded to ensure that students produce high quality work.

Characteristics of Projects >
Learn more about the design elements used in planning a project-based unit.

Planning Projects >
Get help with designing and assessing a project-based unit for your classroom. Find ideas and ways to improve your project-based units.

Curriculum-Framing Questions >
Learn more about how Essential, Unit, and Content Questions spark interest and guide learning to higher levels of student thinking and engagement.

Projects in Action >
Read about the shift from traditional instruction to project-based approaches. See examples of how teachers address challenges as they make the transition.

Project Design