Aligning PBL to the Common Core Standards

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Over at Edutopia, a blog post about Green Street Academy’s efforts to fully integrate PBL into the school day includes some useful lessons for afterschool providers. By aligning PBL with the Common Core Standards, Green Street Academy teachers are able to preserve the outcomes and objectives of a traditional school day classroom while still offering the fun, flexibility and freedom of Project-Based Learning.

Although, as afterschool providers, we don’t face the same constraints described by school day teachers in this blog post, we can certainly learn from their experiences. Here are some of my takeaways from the article.

1)      By emphasizing the Common Core, we can speak school teachers and administrators’ language

The Common Core Standards continue to gain traction across the country, and even states that have not adopted them still operate under similar paradigms. By incorporating standards-based learning into our PBL plans, we can provide a useful service to school day teachers.

Ask your students’ teachers about upcoming lesson plans. What are some standards being emphasized in the coming weeks? What concepts still need further reinforcement? Bridging the gap between the school day and afterschool will help to forge strong partnerships and boost our credibility as education professionals.

2)      Integrating many academic subject areas takes a lot of staff cooperation and advanced planning

Throughout the blog post, Eric Isselhardt, from Green Street Academy, describes an involved process of multi-party planning. Science teachers joined forces with language arts teachers and gym teachers (and everyone in between) to ensure not only that Project-Based Learning was being offered across the school day, but that every subject was represented in PBL plans.

Even though it is less common to see staff members at afterschool programs who teach individual subjects, this collaborative approach still offers a number of advantages. By thinking deliberately about integrating a number of academic disciplines, we can ensure that we don’t fall into a PBL planning rut, based on our own interests or skill sets. Some staff members may find integrating certain academic disciplines difficult, while other staff members may find it fun and exciting.

3)      If they can do it in the school day, we can do it afterschool

In many ways, Project-Based Learning fits more naturally in afterschool programs than the traditional school day classroom. Project-Based Learning emphasizes flexibility. It emphasizes a multi-disciplinary approach, where students guide their own inquiry, based on their own interests. This can be difficult to incorporate in a school day classroom that must meet the demands of standardized tests and standardized curriculum.

But many schools report that PBL implementation has improved learning outcomes. If schools, despite their traditions and rigidity, can find success incorporating PBL, imagine the potential for high quality programming afterschool providers could tap by implementing this method!

by: Jason Schwalm

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