Selecting a Topic for a Project Based Learning Unit

Whether you are new to Project Based Learning or you've implemented PBL units before, it is always difficult in selecting a Topic for a Project Based Learning Unit. In this post, I'll give you some ideas that will help you make your selection easier.

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In selecting a topic for a Project Based Learning unit, you might keep two questions in mind. 
  1. Is the topic engaging and meaningful to your students? Do your students take a personal interest in the topic? 
  2. Are you able to cover required educational skills during the project? Is there an educational purpose for implementing the project?

Are You New to PBL?

If you are new to Project Based Learning, you may want to begin with well-organized projects that are already underway. Collaborative opportunities are available and students are able to communicate with students and experts all over the world. One of my favorite online projects is Journey North. Students track the migration of the monarch butterfly. Check out Edutopia and The Buck Institute for Education for more ideas and guidance.

What Are Your Students' Passions and Interests?

When thinking about your student interests, keep these ideas in mind:
  • What is the age and maturity level of your students?
  • Is there something unique about where your community? environmental, economic, social, political, etc.)
  • Is there a problem or something going on in the world that your students question?
  • What are some things your students are passionate about? Your students will want to dig deeper to understand more about the topic.

What Resources are Available?

When you consider your resources, think about field trips, experts, working with other staff members, selecting books, and integrating technology. If you don't have appropriate resources, students may not be engaged in the project. You can still be creative if your resources are limited. Don't feel like you have to have access to the latest technology, enough money for field trips, etc.. 
  • If you're unable to go on a field trip, try zooming or look for virtual field trips. Bring in experts to your school. Parents are a wealth of resources.
  • If you can't find an expert, show a TED Talk. They are excellent.
  • Work with other staff members to see what information they can share or help teach. Your librarian (media specialist) and technology coordinator can suggest books and websites.
To learn more about Asking an Expert, click HERE.

 What Standards Will be Covered?

When you're planning your unit, make sure you know what standards you'll be teaching. Because your unit may take weeks or even months to cover, it's important to implement your grade level standards. What 21st Century Skills do you want to address? 

For more Tips in Preparing Students for Project Based Learning, click HERE.

To help organize your ideas, take a look at these resources.

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