Cutting Content to Make Room for Learning

The goal of this article is to describe how I used — and am using — a PBL lens to cut content and make room for real learning.

So just after some introductory activities about scarcity, automation, and the future of work, but before we got to anything to do with curriculum, gradebook categories, purpose statements, or standard rubrics, I thought I would take the risk and just…ask students what they wanted to know: What about our community, our state, or the world would you want to connect to or know more about? Here’s a sample of what they told me:

Economic Engagement Agreement: Students wrote up a research contract and conferenced with me to approve their plan.
  • Iowans for a Greener Death is an advocacy/awareness group started by a student wanting to change norms, practices, and laws around death and dying in America starting in his home state.
  • A Day in the Life of a Physical Therapist is an exploration of the requirements and experience of the practice of physical therapy. This student wants to go into the field and interviewed a local PT for her project.
  • Impact of Urban/Suburban Development on the Environment: After a bout of extreme summer weather, this group is talking to city officials and planners about the impact of and interaction between suburban growth and a changing climate.
  • Organic Honey: What’s the Buzz About? This student is passionate about the issue of colony collapse and sustainable bee-keeping practices. She has interviewed a local organic honey farmer about their practices and plans on teaching the class about her findings — with free samples!
  • What would be the economic & social impact of only using renewable resources? This student has contacted state renewable energy associations and groups, and she is going to use her experience in graphic design to create a poster series highlighting our state’s renewable energy future.
  • One pair of students working to understand food manufacturing and processing walked away with a lesson in clarity, as they were told firmly by a contact at General Mills that, no, they can’t have the recipe for Lucky Charms.

Economic engagement isn’t optional in the adult world outside of school any more than civic engagement is; it’s not even optional for most students at this point in their lives.

For more information about Project-Based Learning, check out the Human Restoration Project’s free PBL Guidebook!

Human Restoration Project

Students and teachers are human beings - schools must bring this to light. Follow us on our podcast, this blog, and at HumanRestorationProject.org

Nick Covington

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High school social studies teacher. Let's try and figure this out together.

Human Restoration Project

Students and teachers are human beings - schools must bring this to light. Follow us on our podcast, this blog, and at HumanRestorationProject.org