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Project-based learning is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that invites students to engage in an authentic quest to understand a driving question over an extended period of time in order to develop a deep and thorough understanding of a given subject.

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Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning

Photo by Douglas Gayeton

Project-Based Learning

Location: Ames High School, Iowa
Featuring: The Bluestem Institute, Project Localize and Ames High School Teachers Joe, Mike and Chad

Instead of talking about Iowa’s woeful water quality, three Ames High School teachers decided to show it to their student and ask them to find solutions.

“We wanted to examine a local environmental issue that would invite us to explore the intersection of science, government policy, the local economy and sociological perspectives,” say Joe, Mike and Chad. “Corn and soybean farming are Iowa’s most widespread industry, while water is overseen by numerous government policies. This is a complex issue that exemplifies the way systems - both human systems and biological systems - are inextricably linked."

"Over the course of our teaching careers, each of us came to understand the importance of connecting content across disciplines. Traditional classrooms are compartmentalized by subject, yet this is not how we actually experience and learn things in life, so we created a new course structure, one offering teachers and students the flexibility to transcend the traditional classroom environment and engage the community."

62 seniors at Iowa’s Ames HS have joined Bluestem, an intensive, year- long investigation of water quality and its impact on Iowa. During an integrated three-period block each day, students earn credits in English, Environmental Science, Government and Sociology while using tools like Project Localize, a PBL experience which helps students learn to critically evaluate challenges in their community and share their insights with others.

“I'm a big fan of PBL. I've never been able to get that much substance out of worksheets or nightly readings from textbooks. With PBL you can actually watch something big come together before your eyes and when it's finished you're able to feel a real sense of accomplishment. In my humble opinion PBL does a much better job of preparing me for life than ‘turning to chapter 4’ ever could.”
- Jack, Future Businessman, Ames High School Student

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