Science and Children's Literature

Michigan Rocks Unit

Student-Directed Inquiry

Science Education Resources


Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Curricular Ideas

Project-Based Literature



Project-based instruction is an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning.  The implementation of a project-based curriculum moves instruction from teacher-directed to student-led activity utilizing the application of “hands-on, minds-on” and action research to learning.  Through project-based learning, students practice problem solving in the context of “real-world” projects, which often address real world concerns and/or student interests.  In the context of solving problems related to the project, students apply and integrate content in a variety of subject areas, utilizing science, mathematics, language arts, technology, geography, social studies and the fine arts to research and complete the project. 

Projects implemented in the project-based curriculum must include a scope that allows students to gain an in-depth understanding of content coupled with skill development (research skills, problem-solving skills, collaborative learning skills, process-oriented skills in science and mathematics, skills associated with investigation, technology application skills etc.).  Project topics need to relate to students so they are intrinsically motivated and engaged in their own learning, pursuing interests, questions and ideas associated with the project. 

The intended student outcomes of project-based learning are to develop problem-solving strategies, to experience the connections of classroom learning to life experiences, to gain an in-depth understanding of the inter-relationships of content, to apply collected data to decision-making, to organize procedures and research that facilitate the continual building of knowledge and ideas related to the project and to develop strategies for collaborative information gathering and problem solving.  Of course, a successfully implemented project is also a desirable outcome.



The benefits of project-based curriculum include empowering students to:

1.   become active learners that participate in commonly held objectives,

2.   develop inquiry-based strategies that can be applied in multiple ways,

3.   develop higher-order thinking skills,

4.   become a member of a community of learners,

5.   become self-directed learners,

6.   realize the interconnectedness of content and

7.   realize their role in the community.


The roles of teachers in project-based curriculum are to:

1.   provide opportunities for and guide student inquiry

2.   provide suggested resources (research, people, community)

3.   facilitate learning

4.   propose possible resolutions to conflicts or “dead ends”




To learn more about project-based learning and action research at the elementary level, read Come Back, Salmon How A Group Of Dedicated Kids Adopted Pigeon Creek And Brought It Back To Life by Molly Cone and Inquiry at the Window Pursuing the Wonders of Learners by Phyllis Whitin and David J. Whitin
For a review of these books, press here

To explore examples of project-based curricular ideas, press here.

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