Project-Based Learning: A Student’s Perspective

by | Aug 22, 2016 | Project Based Learning

As educators, we often forget about the perspective of the student. It’s easy to get wrapped up in State Standards, test scores, and lesson planning. But, what happens when we stop and take a look at the real impact of project-based learning on a student?

The Modern Classroom

The bell rings, students shuffle around, pencils drop on desks, and eventually a silence overcomes the sounds of the classroom. That stifling quiet, a feeling the students know well, signals the impending doom of another dry lecture. As the hands on the clock tick, students, one by one, disengage. Why do they even need to stay awake if the A++ student at the front of the classroom answers every one of the teacher’s questions anyway? By the end of the lecture, only 7 students are still listening to the teacher. 5 others text, 2 game on their phones, 1 shops online, and the heads of 3 others lie silently on their desks in puddles of drool.

Project-Based Learning: Getting Students Excited

The classrooms at my high school are filled with scenes like this. Today, most students aren’t motivated to be at school at all, much less sit through a lecture. Kids are itching to do something, to let their creativity flow and discover something new. They’re smart. They realize that to be taught something is different than to see something, to be actively involved in why something happens. When students jump the fence from theoretical learning to project-based learning, magic happens. Passions are ignited, ideas abound, and curiosity is manifested in everyone involved.

Creating an Impact and Memory

See, theoretical learning relies on the student actively pushing their mind without an obvious goal or result. Project-based learning gives the student a goal to work towards, and keeps them engaged. Oftentimes, they are physically active in the processes as well, which enhances the experience and creates vivid memories that help students recall what they’ve learned. Our brains work spatially, so when everything is studied in one classroom, it becomes more difficult to pick out specific pieces of information. But if a student studies or researches something in a specific location, they’ll have a distinct memory of whatever they were studying tied to that location.

Project-Based Learning Conclusions

These observations have led many schools to make advances toward project-based learning. In fact, my old high school decided to make this switch leading into my senior year. Many teachers assigned labs, presentations, debates, and projects in place of big tests and quizzes. Students had to work diligently to get good grades instead of relying on multiple choice guessing. A lot of the students enjoyed this, because they had much more sway over what they were learning about. Each individual could dive into interests of all sorts, growing in knowledge and curiosity about something that appealed to them.

Educators have access to many learning resources that help kids engage in the classroom and maintain their innate curiosity. In fact, you’re on the website for one of those resources now! As far as STEM education classes go, it’s pretty likely that only a few students at your school truly love taking them.
Most of us, at some point, have been fascinated by the stars that hang above us at night. Stratostar unites that love of the heavens with STEM education, and does so by providing a prime example of project-based learning: a weather balloon launch. As the balloon’s camera soars above the atmosphere, the balloon’s advanced technology analyzes atmospheric conditions, providing numerous points of interest for involved students. Instead of grumbling, disgruntled students falling asleep in class, Stratostar will have classes clamoring with excitement, with bright eyes and willing minds. Soon, their minds will take off, and who knows? Maybe an idea will come about that will change the world. Theoretical learning: 0. Project-based learning: 1.