The Challenge of Project-Based Learning Prompts TCS Students to Ask Questions and Find Answers

At The Children’s School, our project-based learning (PBL) approach not only gives our students hands-on lessons and real-world learning experiences that keep them interested and engaged, but it also challenges our students academically and provides a multitude of social-emotional benefits. 

Project-based learning at TCS goes far beyond hands-on fun and challenges our students to ask questions and search for the answers. In that journey, they not only learn facts, they find true understanding. 

TCS Head of School Roslyn Benjamin shares one of her favorite benefits of the project-based learning model: “One of the things that is important is the notion between ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding.’ When you challenge kids appropriately, they don’t just know the information, but they truly understand the information.”  

In applying academic concepts to everyday life, our students learn to work together, encourage one another, ask questions and find the answers through their studies. 

TCS eighth grader Elizabeth Gore shares, “With project-based learning, we’re not just reading a book. We’re in groups, doing experiments, spending time with people to find answers, and it really makes us want to lean in. We want to learn more because we’re having fun, and because we’re having fun, we want to keep going, keep asking questions.” 

“With project-based learning, our students have the freedom and the ability to collaborate, to think, to reflect, to try, to fail and to keep going and know they can find the right answer,” said eighth-grade Teacher Todd Wass. 

Todd also shares from his experience as an educator steeped in project-based learning experience, “We can engage our students so that they’re at the center of their learning experience. We give them ownership of their experience. In science lab, our students actually have to create the question and then figure out the answer, and in doing so, it is not just play, it is hard fun. Every day, we come in and we do things that are hard, whether it is hard mentally and intellectually, or hard physically, socially or emotionally. We are learning social-emotional skills by working hard and playing hard and learning how to discover the answers to our own questions.”

Teachers in Lower School draw on their students’ interest to create PBL units that incorporate science, social studies, STEAM learning, writing and more. 

First graders in Alison Armbrecht’s class just finished a PBL unit called “Building a Community.” “I built it around one of their strong interests, stuffed animals,” said Alison!

Alison and STEAM Coordinator Kelly Lyn worked with the students to design and build a home for their animals and shared buildings for their community using Makedo, an open-end toy construction system. 

“Each child made a home and worked with others to make shared buildings. We researched and wrote nonfiction books about each animal and made laws for the community together. After I brought in my own stuffed fox, I read Roald Dahl’s ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ as our read-aloud. We wrapped up the project by  putting all of the animals and their homes together into a town,” said Alison.

Project-based learning at TCS gives our students the opportunity to take on academically rigorous challenges together, learning teamwork, problem-solving, and confidence-building skills along the way. 

Research has shown that project-based learning helps students become better decision-makers and that it helps students learn 21st-century skills that will help them in high school and beyond. 

“There’s a saying that I’ve heard from others that play is work, and I truly believe that that’s what it is,” Roz shares. “Our students need opportunities to play inside the classroom and outside the classroom, because that will allow them to learn and to develop the lifelong learning skills, not just learning for the test, not just learning because I’ve got to crank out an essay, but really learning the skills and competencies that they will need wherever they go.”