Pre-K through 3rd grade is considered to contain some of the most important years in development. These are the years in which children learn the necessary building blocks of every subject as well as build self confidence and an awareness of the world around them. Falling behind or losing confidence during this period pushes students into a continual cycle of catching up or struggling to meet minimal requirements as they advance through school.
Take a minute to imagine the years in school as the process for building a house. PreK to 3rd grade would involve planning, clearing land and laying the foundation for a future home. With more meaningful experiences and attentive mentors present in a learner’s life, the size of the house is increased, the quality of materials is improved, and a firm, balanced foundation is laid.
If you live in North Texas you know that a damaged or poorly engineered foundation can lead to broken pipes, cracked walls and tilted door frames, all of which cost both time and money to repair. It works the same way with early childhood education.
With the rise in educational standards, many of America’s teachers are acting more like administrative assistants and data analysts than teachers.
Lesson planning, conferences, professional development, behavioral reports, standardized testing. Because we are limited to 24 hours in a day and 8 hours in a school day, instructional time has decreased over the years to the current state:
By the time a learner reaches 4th grade, they will have received roughly 1,008 hours of language arts, 648 hours of mathematics and 228 hours of science.
Don’t freak out yet. A decrease in instructional time does not ultimately affect student achievement, but it does decrease the chances of seeing project based and engaging scientific experiences on the curriculum. It also means less time for hands-on experiments with the rise in lecture and reading instruction to meet standard requirements.
Simply put, the minimum requirements for building a home have been met. The house will be made; it will be structurally sound and ready for a homeowner. Unfortunately, it’s not a custom built home, with no fancy furnishings or paint on the walls. And with so many other homes just like it being placed on the market, it will be hard to stand out.
“But time and resource constraints, in addition to safety concerns, make authentic science inquiry difficult to model in the classroom. As a result, simple inquiry tasks such as one-variable experiments, observations, and illustrations are commonplace. These simple inquiry activities are recipe-like, straightforward, and generally do not require the student to engage in problem solving or critical thinking and are poor models of authentic science inquiry. As a result, students leave school without the ability to reason scientifically”
Project based learning, specifically in science education, is known to greatly improve student achievement. And allowing students the ability to experiment with various subjects that blend together, like natural history, architecture, or graphic design, encourages students to customize their learning. Positive experiences increase awareness and trust in each student’s skills and talents.
Pros and Cons of Project Based Learning for Teachers
- Encourages self discovery and persistence
- Develops the engineering process
- Encompasses many education standards
- Involves real world problems (local, regional, global)
- Improves communication skills
- Builds team work
- Fosters emotional intelligence
- Engages critical thinking
- Requires a large amount of time and planning
- Teachers need to reverse engineer projects to limit problems and gauge proper time management for the project
- Students can lose confidence and motivation when projects do not immediately work or they hit a problem
- Certain projects may require help from experts
The good news is that SED can help with some of this. Contact us if you would like SED to visit your school or event for a special, hands-on g
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