Whole School Project Based Learning Experiment

I teach in a small school….a very small school. We have 62 students ranging from 7th-12th grade. This can cause some problems with availability and elective classes, but it also allows us to create some pretty fun cross-curricular projects.

The teachers sat down before Christmas break to decide on a topic for our Project Based Learning cross-curricular experiment. We wanted to choose something that we could work on in our fourth period classes that would be unique, personal, and could be applied to each subject. Since we live in Southern California, we chose the Drought because it is a real-life issue that is impacting our daily lives in multiple ways.
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Each teacher discussed ideas with their classes, trying to find a topic to work on in a way that would highlight their subject and their student’s strengths. Since I am an English teacher, we decided that we would create a newspaper with different articles about the drought and its impact. Each student chose two topics to write about and I asked one student to edit and another to create the layout on a newspaper website I found. The students researched their topics and we even had two students who had parents involved in Groundwater Preservation and on the Los Angeles Water Board. These students interviewed their parents and came back with some useful information about how our water is used and how the drought will continue to affect Los Angeles County for years to come.


Blog PostThe layout was created using www.makemynewspaper.com and we had a great time choosing the fonts, working out the layout issues, modeling after real newspapers, and finding interesting pictures to include in each article. The students worked together, only asking for my help when they wanted suggestions with word choices or a layout decision that they couldn’t resolve themselves. This experience was a perfect way to see how students could collaborate, compromise, and use their strengths, skills, and creativity to create a final product.


Blog 1The result was spectacular and I am so pleased with how the newspaper came out. It looked professional and the
newsprint was high quality. It did take some time for our newspaper to print, but we were able to decide how many copies we wanted, the size of the newspaper, and if we wanted color or just black and white. We were able to purchase 10 copies and each student took home their own copy to show their parents. When we presented our newspaper to the rest of the classes, they were impressed and read through our articles with interest and appreciation.


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This was our first comprehensive experience with a school-wide Project Based Learning experiment, but I think it worked out beautifully. Each student was able to participate and learn more about the impact of the drought in California, while utilizing skills they were learning in their classes to create different approaches and new ways of looking at all of the elements of the drought.


Different Drummer LogoDifferent Drummer teaches English to learning-challenged students from 9th-12th grade. She tries to keep their attention using visually dynamic graphics and topics while including high-level questions that are aligned with the Common Core. 

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One thought on “Whole School Project Based Learning Experiment

  1. Loved your process and I’m inspired (but not surprised at your outcomes!) Thanks for sharing! Just the other side of disputes over tests – lies real brainpower as you captured it and sketched it so well here! Bravo! Ellen

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