Students designing an investigation to begin to grow their own food.

PBL Curriculum from Ann Arbor’s Summer Learning Institute documented by AAPS News here:

As we reimagine structures of curriculum for remediation, we understand that reading and math is best taught with the same enrichment opportunities most often afforded to high achieving students. Learning becomes relevant with context and agency. The Ann Arbor Public Schools Summer Learning Institute redesigned its curriculum in 2016 to launch two thematic PBL camps that alternate each year.

The first is all about bird conservation. The challenging question was “How can we, as scientists, help injured birds?” Through a partnership with the Leslie Science and Nature Center’s raptor conservatory, students used the project-based learning framework to learn how to distinguish birds of prey, understand the physics of flight, and design solutions to help these creatures.

Students reading topic specific, differentiated texts to answer “need to knows” to help injured birds.

The second PBL camp is all about healthy foods. Students grow their own plants with the goal of transplanting and cultivating foods native to Michigan. They understand the symbiotic mechanism of pollination as they take the role of bees in the “Pollination Game”. They construct a nutrition profile from an variety of foods that could be found at a local farmer’s market based on macronutrients. They participate in a simulated marketplace and consider the opportunity cost in various modes of transpiration given a food budget. With assistance from Ann Arbor Food Gatherers, they leave the camp with a plant to care for, and a self-written action plan.

Students receiving instructions from the “queen bee” in “The Pollination Game”.

If we expect students to achieve, they must be engaged with the content of their learning. The best way to be engaged is to have an authentic relationship to the content of their studies. This means that the learning must be interesting and provide the learner with agency – a way of making an impact on the world around them.

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