Project-Based Learning: 50 Smart Ideas
by TeachThought Staff
This post has been updated with new ideas and clearer formatting
At TeachThought, we’re huge fans of project-based learning.
While there is no magic bullet of practice, program, or framework that automatically produces progressive and effective learning, what makes project-based learning exceptional is its flexibility. As it is, first and foremost, simply a curriculum planning tool, so much other ‘good stuff’ that can support learning (game-based learning, learning simulations, place-based education, self-directed learning, etc.) can all be ’embedded’ in project-based learning.
With PBL, there is no ‘either/or’ proposition: anything from open-ended, play-based learning to data-driven, research-based instructional environments can all use PBL effectively.
While there are all kinds of great resources necessary to teach and learn through PBL, from apps to planning templates and more, the genesis of a great project is the idea itself–the purpose and/or audience of the project itself.
See also What Is Project-Based Learning?
Below, we’ve shared dozens of ideas for projects, and we’re going to constantly update the list with new ideas, suggestions from our community, resources, etc. In that way, this page can become a kind of guide for project-based learning in your classroom. The focus will be on the ideas for the projects themselves but we’ll also include apps, tools, and other pedagogical bits and pieces you’ll need to effectively realize this approach in your classroom.
6 Posts To Get Started With Project-Based Learning
- The Difference Between Projects & Project-Based Learning
- 5 Types Of Project-Based Learning
- 11 Tools For Better Project-Based Learning
- 4 Keys To Designing A Project-Based Learning Classroom
- 23 Ways To Use The iPad In The 21st Century PBL Classroom
- 12 Timeless Project-Based Learning Resources
The Constantly-Updated List Of Project-Based Learning Ideas
Note: This list is intentionally not separated into ‘content areas’ as many of the projects could be approached from a number of angles (the math of design, the language of planning, and so on).
1. Create an interactive family tree with voice-overs from living family members.
2. Design an app with a specific purpose for a specific audience.
3. Inventory the world’s most compelling ideas in an elegant and browsable interface.
4. Problem-solve ‘screentime’ for yourself and family (identify problem, overcome those challenges, monitor progress, evaluate effect of changes, etc.)
5. Solve the problem of negative and/or ‘fake news.’
6. Using the best thinking of major world civilizations, design the perfect civilization. Identify critical characteristics, resources, and habits, etc.
7. Mash any three social media apps and explain the purpose and features of the new app.
8. Help local businesses increase environmental sustainability (e.g., reduce waste).
9. Identify, analyze, and visualize recurring themes in human history; then contextualize those themes in modern society.
10. Make a compelling case for a viewpoint other than your own on any issue.
11. Create ‘visibility’ for something beautiful, useful, or otherwise deserving of attention (e.g., music, parks, people, acts of kindness, effort, movies, nature, etc.)
12. Leverage the wisdom of people living in nursing homes.
13. Artfully express, analyze the causes-effects of, or otherwise evaluate population growth.
14. Debate the relationship between technology and humanity from a historical (Mary Shelley?) or modern (Steve Jobs?) perspective.
15. Reimagine major coastal cities in light of 6 degrees of warming.
16. Measure the sociological impact of social media on local communities (using a self-selected parameter).
17. Design an alert system to publicize the spread of viruses/disease.
18. Plant and manage a garden to feed local homeless/hungry.
19. Solve a personal problem.
20. Analyze the impact of architecture–or lack thereof–on a community.
21. Dissect the ‘anatomy’ of viral web content, memes, or social media arguments.
22. Help a local business that does ‘good work’ market itself to younger audiences. Create a proposal, present to business, refine proposal based on feedback.
23. Artfully illustrate the global history of human/civil rights.
24. Visually demonstrate the galaxy’s behavior from changing a single parameter (e.g., the gravity level of a single planet).
25. Design the next Google (the next method of content and data discovery).
26. Start and run a profitable business that is ‘aware’ of its impact on the world.
27. Plan a Mars colony using current data of the Martian landscape and atmosphere.
28. Create a photo documentary, then turn that into a film documentary, then turn that into a short eBook.
29. Define, Analyze, and Visualize an Abstract Concept (Wisdom, Freedom, Conflict, etc.).
30. Develop a feasible response to potential asteroid–> earth collisions.
31. Analyze the cause and effect of low voter turnout on both democracy, and the health of the local community.
32. Re-imagine the American Constitution–or similar governing documents–as if they were designed today.
33. Perform a cause-effect analysis on consumerism (or any self-selected topic)
34. Create and publish a weekly or monthly podcast on a self-selected topic based on market data.
35. Film a documentary on an under-served social issue few people see.
36. Imagine and articulate a community where neighbor-to-neighbor and neighborhood-to-neighborhood interaction was necessary to survive.
37. Design a better book (physical/printed) that’s affordable and accessible to a wider range of readers.
38. Identify an emerging musical genre, then write/perform a song that fits in that genre.
39. Design a school, including new content areas, grading, collaboration, and community involvement.
40. Create and manage a YouTube channel for a self-determined and authentic purpose.
41. Solve a problem your parents have (scale is important here–choosing what to try to solve that’s worthy of an entire project and your best thinking and design).
42. Analyze, visualize, and socialize the long-term impact of coal on the environment.
43. Revise the United Nations in some way, shape, or form to better respond to international crises.
44. Answer the following: What would (insert historical figure) say about (insert relevant social issue)?
45. Re-conceive YouTube as an aggregation tool and player for traditional literary forms (e.g., poetry, fiction).
46. Redesign your city to reduce the need for extended commutes.
47. Research all modern tools sued to provide clean water access, then design a better tool.
48. Study local land regions and resources to identify a geological-based response to the Zombie Apocalypse.
49: Design a 21st-century library by first analyzing macro-purpose of a library, then reimagining one in a modern context.
50. Design a modern bookstore by integrating both physical and digital media and categorizing them all by something other than traditional genres.