Thursday, April 28, 2011

Project Based Learning

In last week's post, I mentioned that I wanted to say a little more about the keynote speaker at the PAGE conference. Kevin Honeycutt is a wonderfully creative educator. He certainly inspired me to take a closer look at how I am connecting my kids to the future through their education today.

His website is absolutely loaded with links and ideas, mostly free to download. I could spend hours checking it all out. One thing that really caught my eye is Google SketchUp. If you aren't familiar with it, Google SketchUp is a free tool for building 3D models on your computer. Tutorial videos are available here. I can see definite possibilities for fun projects with this tool.

Another plan I have in the works is to use to help JT publish some of his writing projects. In his presentation, Kevin pointed out that when a student is given a writing assignment, they are working for an audience of one...not really all that inspiring. He then shared a story about a troubled student he was trying to reach. He knew that she wrote poetry, so he asked if she would be interested in 'becoming an author'. He helped her publish her poetry (using a pseudonym) that very afternoon. When the book arrived, she was thrilled, but she also noticed all of her spelling errors. Up to that point, she had no reason at all to CARE if she was misspelling words in her writing assignments. Now it mattered to her and education could happen.

I plan to spend time this summer looking into many of the other links on Kevin's site. In the process, I think I will be seeing a shift in my education style. I have been wanting to work towards a more project based approach. I feel like his site is the link I have needed to pull it all together.

Along those same lines, this week has been a bit less structured. Ever since the beginning of this year, we had been talking about doing some birdwatching. This week we borrowed the National Geographic Field Guide to Birds: Pennsylvania, from the library. We made some treats for the birds in our yard using pine cones, peanut butter and sunflower seeds. Today we recorded several different species in our journal, including a Brown Thrasher and two Eastern Bluebirds. It was a great opportunity to learn more about these birds AND be outside in beautiful weather.

JT told me today that he absolutely MUST build a model of a suspension bridge. He had a pretty good plan in mind for how to pull it off. He thought he should use Popsicle sticks and cardboard. We spent a little time researching online. I posted a request for recommendations for good sites and material on the Gifted Homeschooler's Forum and received some really great ideas. Our favorite is a bridge made with the supplies he had in mind, found at the site Model Bridge Design. I want to encourage both of the boys to work on this an independently as possible. I know I tend to jump in too quickly. Since I know little about bridge design, they will need to lead the way.

EM has been wanting to do more work with the LEGO Mindstorm. I also plan to pull out some of our electronics kits to let him explore on his own. He really enjoys finding out how things work. I want to continue to encourage his curiosity. He has also been working his way through some of the Jedi Apprentice books. Certainly not high quality literature...but I'm thrilled that he is spending larger amounts of time reading. On a related note, he finally started his vision therapy for his Strabismus. He needs to use a computer home therapy program 3 days a week for 20 minutes at a time. He will also have monthly therapy appointments at the eye center. His doctor told us that she saw some improvement since his last appointment, even without the therapy. The program will help prepare his eyes for the smaller print and longer reading times needed as he moves along in his education.

Laid back schooling has provided us with many opportunities to leave our usual routine this week. With so much freedom in our schedule, I think we will have an exciting end of the school year.

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