Introduced to early childhood education almost a century ago, the project approach to learning gives children the freedom to follow their own interests, gain deeper understanding, and figure out solutions in their own unique way. A project is an extended, in-depth investigation of a real-world topic, and supplements curriculums with opportunities for children to seek knowledge through sensory, first-hand explorations. Whether they involve an entire class, or small groups, project based learning ideas are flexible and engaging, allowing teachers the freedom to introduce exciting new topics to their classrooms that align with the interests of their students.
Picturing the Project Approach is an invaluable teacher resource full of project approach examples and explanations. Authors Chard, Kogan, and Castillo outline a “well-structured, user-friendly framework involving three phases” for introducing the project approach to classrooms. These phases easily allow teachers to experience the many contributions to deeper learning the project approach brings to the early education classroom.
At the beginning of the project, the teacher’s roe is to find out about the firsthand experiences and personal stories that form the basis of individual students’ current understanding and what they already know about the topic.
Throughout this phase, questions of what the children would like to research are developed in group discussion sessions and become the roadmap for the investigation.
The teacher organizes experiences that allow students to get firsthand information to answer their questions.
The teacher, on her own or with her students, decides when and how to conclude the project and how to share the experience with others. The teacher reviews and evaluates the work and usually asks the children to help select particular items for a presentation that will communicate the learning over the course of the project.