[Parent Tips] Project-Based Learning at Home

Friday, February 3, 2017 -- Elaine Ho

Cultivating a love of learning, curiosity, creativity, and personal initiative in your child is no easy task. And as more and more educational apps, toys, and gadgets hit the market that attempt to bridge the gap between fun and learning, it’s easy to see there is a desire to help kids take learning into their own hands.

One practical way to cultivate these attributes in your child, without breaking the bank on the latest tech toy, is through project-based learning. This approach has gained a lot of traction in schools over the past several years—and for good reason. It encourages children to actively explore their interests; tackle real-world problems and challenges; and build valuable critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the process. Project-based learning can be a great strategy to help your child build self-esteem by taking initiative over their own learning and seeing the tangible results of their work.  

So, how can parents extend project-based learning beyond the classroom and utilize this approach at home? Here are three tips for success, plus four ideas for at-home projects!

Identify a problem or a need

Project-based learning is all about digging into real problems that kids face in day-to-day life. Pay attention to the things your child expresses interest in, the questions they come to you with, the frustrations you watch them go through, and the activities that really make them light up. Almost anything can be turned in to a multi-faceted project with a little creativity. The key is to find something that directly impacts your child.

Make it tangible

Part of project-based learning’s appeal to kids is that it allows them to produce something concrete. It goes beyond simply reading a book or writing a paper; it’s about having choice, gaining first-hand experience, and creating an outcome that resonates. So, once your child has decided on a need or problem to address, it’s important for you to help them design a project that will get them doing, making, and seeing real results.

Deepen learning through reflection

Effective project based learning involves tinkering with different ideas and trying out new approaches. In the process, kids have the opportunity to practice and master a variety of meaningful skills. But, to really bring things together and help kids understand how to transfer their new skills, intentional reflection after the project is complete is key. Of course, you don’t want to turn your at-home foray into PBL into another school assignment. Instead, set aside time to simply have a conversation with your child about how the project went. What did they find easy? What was most challenging? What did they enjoy the most? Simple questions like these go a long way toward building your child’s critical thinking skills.

It’s also a great idea to find opportunities for your child to share what they’ve just learned and accomplished with friends and family members. It’ll serve as another way for your child to reflect on their project, and the well-earned chance to brag a little is a great way to build confidence.

Ready to get started? Here are a few ideas for at-home project-based learning to get you and your child inspired:    

  1. Have your child take over as family chef for a week. They can start by finding dinner recipes, and making a grocery list on their own. Then, do the shopping, and prepare the meals together, letting your child take the lead while teaching them about healthy, balanced eating. Be sure to take pictures of your week of family feasts!
  2. If your child does some neighborhood lawn-mowing or babysitting, have them take their enterprise to the next level (along with their earning potential!). Ask them to do the research to create a formal business plan and some simple promotional materials like flyers and business cards. Encourage them to get the word out by posting advertising for their new business around your community.
  3. Perhaps there is a policy issue in your community that affects both you and your child. Turn it into a project by asking your child to research the issue in greater detail, as well as who your local government representatives are, and then write a letter to them. In the process, they will learn about how local government and democratic procedures work, and practice persuasive writing skills.
  4. And of course, if you have a budding innovator on your hands, encourage them to start bringing their big ideas to life! Look to these child inventors for inspiration—each of their creations was born out of a simple need they recognized and took upon themselves to fill!  

Practice in core subject areas will give your child the skills they need to tackle any project! Sign up for a free trial of Study Island for Home today and help your child extend classroom learning at home to get ahead!