Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Project Based Learning and Free Schooling

One of our goals starting a Free school was to enable children to indulge in authentic learning; delving into their interests using methods of their choosing. We were excited when we met up with some other parents who wanted to pursue the idea of Project Based Learning. Project based learning is exploring the interests of a child, or a group of children in a group format.  Supplies and raw materials are provided for the kids to build and create projects, using the topic that they are interested in as a guide. We also take field trips in order to increase access and learning for the topic.


Project Based learning was the brainchild of Lori Pickert, she has a blog and a book with tons of great and helpful information. Here is an excerpt from her book:

"Allowing children to learn about what interests them is good, but helping them do it in a meaningful, rigorous way is better. Freedom and choice are good, but a life steeped in thinking, learning, and doing is better. It's not enough to say, 'Go, do whatever you like.' To help children become skilled thinkers and learners, to help them become people who make and do, we need a life centered around those experiences. We need to show them how to accomplish the things they want to do. We need to help them prepare the life they want." - Lori Pickert, Project-Based Home schooling - Mentoring Self-Directed Learners.  

We are taking her philosophy, her ideas and starting a group for kids aged 4-10, that will meet twice a week. We observe the kids, take notes on what they are interested in, what they talk about, using those ideas to introduce a subject. We don't tell them "today we are going learning this" instead we subtly surround them with things to inspire them, or take a field trip. We make sure there are supplies available for them to create whatever they need to explore that interest, be it a painting, a craft, a story, a play. We encourage them to help one another, to inspire one another. We start each meet up with circle time to share what they have been working on at home, what they hope to work on that day at PBL. We close the day with the same circle so the kids can share what they have made or what they are working on and share ideas for next time. Parents take notes so they can help remind the kids about what they want to do next week. Taking notes also helps keep track of what they are interested in for another time, and if they need something we make sure that we make it available for the next meet-up.

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