Fall 2020 Project-Based Learning Updates

Khan Lab School
October 7, 2020 / 5 mins read

We wanted to share this note from Brandon Lee, our Director of ExperientialLearning, about how he's adapted the KLS project-based learningprogram for remote learning. His updates show how KLS has continued using the PBL approach to inspireauthentic learning even through the pandemic. See this video formore onhow PBL at KLS allows students to have voice & choice in their learning.

Don't tell anybody, but, I have the best job. Because I love project-based learning. Whenever I plan projects with teachers or share them among staff, a common utterance is “I wish I did this project when I was a kid.” Through these projects, we are able to teach in a way where we are not just set on delivering content to students, but rather putting students in a place where they need to grapple with it and transform their learning. With remote learning, there was a big question on how we could continue doing PBL in the same way. How could we partner with local non-profits and collect oral histories? How could we have students create a musical about math together? How could we visit the mayor to learn about civic engagement? And the short answer is we can't do these things. 2020 hits you like that. But we can lean into the things we can do.

Constraints often inspire creativity. In the projects listed below, you'll see how our exceptional teachers found ways to lean into a brand new learning environment to create project experiences that capitalize on the limitations remote learning has given us. Get stoked!

Brandon Lee, Director of Experiential Learning

Khan Lab School: Project-Based Learning from Khan Lab School on Vimeo.

Lower School Project Summaries

Ode To A Library- In Emily Storms'ELA 3class, students are tasked with the challenge of supporting a library during times of COVID-19. For the project launch, the class was surprised by a special guest, Alex Pantazes, a children's librarian at Mountain View Public Library. She told our students that the library needed their help. The library is offering lots of resources during these times, but it's hard to access them and understand if you are a kid. So our KLS library helpers are going to make a video that guides students through the online check out process, picking up a book, and even getting a library card under these new conditions. They will be interviewing librarians to turn into bookmarks so that children can get to know their children's librarians even though they can't meet face-to-face.

Dear Data- Inspired by theDear Data project, Math 4 and 5 students will engage in real-world mathematics and data science practices by asking questions, collecting data, looking for patterns, and creating interesting and detailed visualizations to make meaning of and communicate stories about our lives. Through a cycle of data collection, design, and critique, students will combine math and art to create postcards to share with each other. We're still in the planning stages for Exhibition, but Mountain View could use some more public murals, right?

Musée US- In Humanities 5, students explored this question, “How does perception affect identity?” as they analyzed characters fromThunder Rolling in the Mountainsby Scott O'Dell and interpreted their answer to the question in a formal essay. In Social Studies, students wrestled with this question as they studied ethnocentricity, Native American History, and topography. In Art, students were able to visually express their own perceptions by creating a heart map and designing their perception of the route of the Nez Perce tribe.

It Should Be A Science Kit- Science is expensive! And schools right now feel the heat of trying to disseminate science tools and resources to their students. In this project, our IL3 students are going to create low-cost science kits, along with instructions and videos, to share with our community. We will be working withRAFT, a non-profit organization that provides teachers with low cost materials in bulk. Some of their materials are transformed into science kits in house. Our students will learn from expert science curriculum designers, research into their favorite science topics, and design a kit that will teach others.

Upper School Project Summaries

Sweet Toys, Sweet Farm: Chris and Pat launched their interdisciplinary Math/Art project last week, “Toys for Animals.” Last Wednesday, students went on a virtual tour of Sweet Farm, an animal rescue based in Half Moon Bay. Our students go to meet the amazing animals who live there and give them virtual belly rubs. More importantly, they learned about the lack of enrichment options currently available for the animals. Our students will be designing enrichment toys for the animals. They will need to do research, learn about animal cognition, collect observational data, create prototypes, consult with our client for feedback, and ultimately create these toys to deliver. Along the way, our students will be diving into multiple avenues of math and design.

The Future of History: On Tuesday, our U.S. Histories courses will launch a future of history project that will explore the future of monuments and textbooks. For the launch, our students confront the history of a controversial statue in the Bay Area. Throughout the course of the year, they will interrogate other controversial monuments, learn about their history, and question the role monuments should play in our society. As a culminating project, they will perform a detailed analysis of a controversial monument of their choosing, perform original research to offer new insight, and share their work with a wider audience by using digital tools (such as QR codes) to contextualize monuments.

Civic Action Project:Our IL7 Government and Politics class will also launch their Civic Action Project. For this project, teams of students will identify a specific problem impacting our community and/or nation. They will then develop civic action plans to influence public policy and effect positive change. In December, students will showcase their work by entering a Multimedia Contest through the Constitutional Rights Foundation.