Project-based learning is an educational resource that can work for just about any reasonably sized group of students, from a single homeschooler to a classroom of learners. This is my review of the book Project-Based Learning: Creating a Modern Education of Curiosity, Innovation, and Impact by Blair Lee, M.S. & Samantha Matalone Cook, M.A.T. It’s available on the Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers site, which you should check out for the great resources if you haven’t already.
I have been very impressed, if not just a little overwhelmed, by the amount of knowledge that went into this combination book and workbook. Project-Based Learning is well written, well researched and thorough with plenty of references. Don’t worry, it also includes plenty of encouragement to educators new to this type of project. It covers everything from psychology of learning to laying out specific examples of projects that an educator can either adapt or use straight out with their students. In short, it’s got it all!
But what does that actually mean? What are you getting for your thirty bucks, how can you use that information, and is it worth it? First off, I’d like to just tell you about the units covered in the book to give you a little taste.
Unit 1 – The Why: The Science and Spirit behind Project-Based Learning
Yep, this shorter unit makes the case for why Project-based learning is something to bring to the educational table. It also stresses inspiration before instruction. The students have to be behind it, engaged, and feel that the project will actually have relevance and even make an impact in their lives and the world around them.
Unit 2 – The How: Creating a Modern Education with Project-Based Learning
This chapter gets into the nitty gritty, delving into planning, front-loading information, collaborating with mentors, and evaluating these open-ended projects. It helped me to feel completely inadequate in everything I’ve done so far in homeschooling. Of course, it’s a very different style than what we usually implement, with way more planning. I could still see plenty of value in a variety of things, especially helping the kids figure out how to plan their own projects. And there is lots of mentoring instead of top-down teaching, which I love. For people who want a to feel in control with a plan and still have flexibility, this is perfect.
Unit 3 – The Model: Sample Projects to Inspire Curiosity, Innovation, and Impact
These aren’t just samples, they’re full on projects for you, laid out in all their glory! If you’re someone who loves to have all this done for you, it’s right here. There are eight examples, on everything from simple one day projects on paper airplanes to intensive, year-long projects on politics. The screen shot I’m giving you here barely even scratches the surface of all the resources that come with the book.
Appendix: The Workbooks
This isn’t just an appendix, no! This is what would be sold separately, for lots of extra cash, in most other systems I’ve seen. It includes instructions, an educator workbook for planning your projects, a 1-day project planning workbook, and even a student planning guide. This last one I’ve printed out to have the kids use for some of our upcoming projects this year. Kudos to these hardworking educators for including these great resources.
So what’s the bottom line?
If you’re a radical unschooler, Project-Based Learning is a bit too structured for you. For everyone else, I highly recommend it. Even us eclectic unschoolers are going to be making use of some of these resources in the coming year. Yes, I got the book as a review copy, but now that I’ve read it I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it. (Yes, I now have affiliate links, but I wrote this review before I was an affiliate with SEA.) It’s well worth the low cost of $29.99 at the SEA store, especially considering how much some homeschool curriculums run for. This one is adaptable forever, with no need to buy next year’s edition. Go grab one!