20 Examples Of Project-Based Learning For A Modern World
by TeachThought Staff
In 13 Brilliant Outcomes Of Project-Based Learning, we gave a quick example of project-based learning to illustrate the relationship between learning objectives and the products and artifacts produced by project-based learning.
“As the name implies, project-based learning is simply learning through projects. What is being learned and how that learning is being measured isn’t strictly dictated by the project and any products or artifacts within that project. Rather, the reverse should be true: the desired learning objectives should help dictate the products and artifacts within the project.
For example, instead of wanting students to plan a garden as the core of the project, then deciding which learning objectives and academic standards fit that idea, planning backward–looking first at the learning objectives and academic standards, then brainstorm project ideas and components of that project (audience, purpose, duration, etc.) This can be useful in making sure that in the course of completing the project, they are actually learning what you want them to learn. That is, you can help align the work of the project with the desired learning outcomes and objectives.”
With that in mind, we thought it’d be useful to actually provide some real-world examples of project-based learning (as we’ve done in the past with project-based learning examples in math). They are more or less grade-agnostic though most lend themselves. as stated, more towards late middle and high school.
Obviously, these are just examples of project-based learning but not necessarily examples of how and why these ideas are considered ‘pbl’ why others may not be. For that, we’d have to explain and illustrate different scenarios for each project, then anticipate and annotate the learning process itself–especially in light of specific learning objectives. The difference between projects and project-based learning is a crucial shift and without that shift, these are just ideas for projects.
However, that would be a short book in and of itself and is beyond the scope of our purpose here: to communicate what project-based learning might actually look like–especially in a ‘modern’ world. What actually makes each project idea actually an example of project-based learning depends on how the project is mapped out and planned, what learning is assessed and how, the degree of agency and voice the student is allowed, the period of time over which the ‘project’ is ‘completed,’ and so on. There is, obviously, a lot to consider.
See also What Is Project-Based Learning?
With that mind, here are 20 examples of project-based learning in a modern world with resources and technology available in most communities.
20 Examples Of Project-Based Learning For A Modern World
1. Planning a garden that meets specific design objectives, then plant and tend the garden. At the end of the growing season, iterate the design to improve it for the next season based on how the garden was or was not successful in meeting the objectives.
2. Launching a recycling program that solves an identified problem with existing recycling programs. This can be done at a household-level, school-level, neighborhood-level, or city-level.
3. Analyzing the five most popular social media platforms for teens, then predict and design a new platform based on existing trends and past trajectory of change.
4. Creating ‘visibility’ for something beautiful, useful, or otherwise deserving of attention that currently is under-appreciated (e.g., music, parks, people, acts of kindness, effort, movies, nature, etc.)
5. Mashing three existing video games together (i.e., the core ideas in those games) to create a new game. Obviously this wouldn’t be done digitally but through annotated planning and ‘blueprint’ design.
6. Solving the problem of negative and/or ‘fake news.’
7. Designing a new form of government (or democracy, specifically) that addresses some perceived shortcoming of existing democratic forms (partisanship, non-functioning checks-and-balances, etc.)
8. Helping local businesses increase environmental sustainability (e.g., reduce waste).
9. Creating an interactive family tree with voice-overs from living family members.
10. Documenting the ‘important’ stories from your family (immediate or extended), focusing on older generations first. Help your family tell their story by telling all of their individual stories, then come up with a way to ‘publish’ that story (likely only sharing it with the family itself).
11. Inventorying the world’s most compelling ideas in an elegant and browsable interface.
12. Imagining a dating app in 2050 considering anticipated shifts in technology (e.g., biotechnology) and social norms (e.g., gender, sexuality, class, etc.)
13. Identifying, analyzing, and visualizing recurring themes in human history; then contextualize those themes in modern society.
14. Choosing an issue you claim to be ‘important’ to you, then somehow addressing or supporting that issue with real-world work. Afterwards, documenting the learning process and what you learned and how that might change your approach next time.
15. With current trends in climate change in mind, one example of project-based learning might be to design a modern city for the year 2100 (clean-sheet design), or re-imagine existing cities and how they might cope with climate change.
16. Capturing, documenting, and sharing the wisdom of people living in nursing homes. Alternative: Interpreting very narrow and specific expertise for real-world application. For example, take knowledge of robotics or astrophysics or agriculture or music or theater, then somehow ‘apply’ that expertise in an authentic and real-world setting.
17. Dissecting the ‘anatomy’ of viral web content, memes, or social media arguments.
18. Launching a profitable business with actual documentation of real-world business metrics: profit, loss, cost control, etc. (depending on the nature of the product, service, or platform).
19. Artfully illustrating the global history of human/civil rights for the last 2000 years in one image, visual, or artifact.
20. Creating a photo documentary, then turning that into a film documentary, then turning that into a series of short social media videos.
Bonus: Restore something broken or beautiful.