What Is Project-Based Learning?

What Is Project-Based Learning?

Project-based learning (PBL) is one of REALM Charter School’s main strategies to increase academic achievement, so we wanted to put together an overview of PBL that answers the most frequently asked questions.  In this post, we share the benefits, history and examples of PBL.  Read on to learn more and if you have any questions about how we use project-based learning at Realm Charter, please contact us.


What is project-based learning?

Students work on a project over an extended period of time – from a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience.
As a result, students develop deep content knowledge as well as critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills in the context of doing an authentic, meaningful project. Project Based Learning unleashes a contagious, creative energy among students and teachers.


What are the benefits of project-based learning?

Research shows that, in PBL, learners actively use what they know to explore, negotiate, interpret, and create (Dochy, Segers, Van den Boss Leary, 2008). Through PBL, students develop a better capability to integrate and explain concepts (Capon and Kuhn, 2004), which prepares students for future learning (Schwartz and Martin, 2004).
Ultimately, PBL has been shown to improve students’ mastery of 21st-century skills (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992, Hmelo, 1998, Gallagher, Stepien and Rosenthal, 1992).
Research shows that, in PBL, learners actively use what they know to explore, negotiate, interpret, and create (Dochy, Segers, Van den Boss Leary, 2008). Through PBL, students develop a better capability to integrate and explain concepts (Capon and Kuhn, 2004), which prepares students for future learning (Schwartz and Martin, 2004).
Furthermore, project-based learning has been shown to engage students (Boaler, 1992), cut absenteeism (Creghan and Adair-Creghan, 2015), boost cooperative learning skills, improve standardized test scores (Geier, Blumenfeld, Marx, et al., 2008), and increase academic achievement (Geier, Blumenfeld, Marx, Krajcik, Fishman, Soloway, & Clay-Chambers, 2008, Mergendoller, Maxwell and Bellisimo 2007, Hickey, Kindfield, Horwitz and Christie, 1999, Lynch, Kuipers, Pyke and Szesze, 2005, Walker and Leary, 2008).


What are some examples of project-based learning?

 Here are some great examples of project-based learning we collected from across the Internet:
  • Create an interactive family tree with voice-overs from living family members
  • Using the best thinking of major world civilizations, design the perfect civilization. Identify critical characteristics, resources, and habits, etc.
  • Help local businesses increase environmental sustainability (e.g., reduce waste)
  • Shrinking potato chip bags in the microwave. Students can learn about polymers through hands-on activities using some of their favorite products, like shoes and sporting equipment. As a culminating activity, they can put a wrapper from their favorite chips or candy bar into the microwave for five seconds to learn about how polymers return to their natural state when exposed to the heat.
  • Design an app. Students love using the newest apps and games, so take it to the next level by having them design their own! With Apple developer tools, kids can learn how to create an app or online game. They can learn about technology and problem-solving skills while engaged in what they love.
  • Student farm. Students will learn lessons about science, social studies, math, and economics through planting their own organic farm. They can begin by researching the crops they want, figure out what kind of care is needed, and then use a budget to determine what materials they must purchase. They can even sell food from their farm to contribute to a cause or fundraiser.
  • Geocaching. If you’re not able to take your students off-campus to engage in some real-life “geocaching,” you can always create your own geocaching treasure hunt for them. It can incorporate all kinds of skills and knowledge: geography, math, and even essay writing.
Not to be outdone, here is an example of PBL from Realm:
REALM’s students design and build functional projects on a regular basis. Working cooperatively in their Design & Build center, students imagine, design, test and build furniture, artwork, and even A COUPLE OF SOLAR-POWERED TINY HOME (as featured in Tiny House Design) one of which is currently used for transitional housing for homeless people in Eugene, OR. The other was sold on eBay, and proceeds from the sale helped the REALM students pay for the wood and other materials they used in the project. From the beginning, students work together in teams to create useful and beautifully functional projects. We dropped in on a class that was working on constructing some new desks for the new REALM Middle School building which is opening in the fall of REALM Charter School’s 2018-19 school year.


Where can I find project-based learning resources?

From the Buck Institute: http://www.bie.org/resources


What is the history of project-based learning?

The history of project-based learning is the same as the history of the world because humans have always learned by doing.  Some of the greatest minds in the world were strong advocates for “learning by doing”.
From Edutopia,
Confucius and Aristotle were early proponents of learning by doing. Socrates modeled how to learn through questioning, inquiry, and critical thinking — all strategies that remain very relevant in today’s PBL classrooms. Fast-forward to John Dewey, 20th-century American educational theorist and philosopher, and we hear a ringing endorsement for learning that’s grounded in experience and driven by student interest. Dewey challenged the traditional view of the student as a passive recipient of knowledge (and the teacher as the transmitter of a static body of facts). He argued instead for active experiences that prepare students for ongoing learning about a dynamic world. As Dewey pointed out, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
As we move into the 21st century the case for project-based learning has become even stronger.  From the Buck Institute,
The roots of PBL lie in this (historical) tradition. But the emergence of a method of teaching and learning called Project Based Learning is the result of two important developments over the last 25 years. First, there has been a revolution in learning theory. Research in neuroscience and psychology has extended cognitive and behavioral models of learning—which support traditional direct instruction—to show that knowledge, thinking, doing, and the contexts for learning are inextricably tied. We now know that learning is partly a social activity; it takes place within the context of culture, community, and past experiences. This is apparent in research on problem-based learning in the medical field, an important forerunner of PBL.


If you are interested in project-based learning for your child, please contact us at realmcharterschool.org to learn more and see how your child can benefit.

Guide to Tuition-Free, Public Charter Schools in Berkeley, CA

Guide to Tuition-Free, Public Charter Schools in Berkeley, CA

Are you looking at school options for your child in Berkeley?

We at Realm Charter School have put together this guide to help you understand what public charter schools are and how your child (or children) could attend.  Tuition-free public charter schools provide unique learning approaches that are an excellent fit for many children.

We want to make the enrollment process as simple as possible by providing accurate information for parent’s most frequently asked questions.

This guide will provide answers to questions like, “What is a tuition-free public school?”,  “What tuition-free public school options are available in Berkeley?” and “How do I enroll my student in charter school?”

If you are looking for answers to questions like these, read on!

What is a tuition-free public charter school in California?

A charter school is a public school that provides instruction in any combination of grades, kindergarten through grade twelve. Parents, teachers, or community members may initiate a charter petition, which is typically presented to and approved by a local school district governing board. California Education Code (EC) also allows, under certain circumstances, for county boards of education and the State Board of Education to be charter authorizing entities.

Source: https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/re/qandasec1mar04.asp#q1

Charter schools are public schools that get funding from the state and have greater flexibility in hiring, curriculum, management and other aspects of their operations. Unlike traditional public schools that are run by school districts with an elected school board and a board-appointed superintendent, most charter schools are run by organizations with their own self-appointed boards.

In general, this independence gives charter schools more room to experiment and to come up with instructional and other innovations.

Source: https://edsource.org/2017/10-things-to-know-about-charter-schools/583984

What tuition-free public charter schools are available for students living in Berkeley?

REALM Charter School is a tuition-free public charter in Berkeley with both a Middle School and High School. REALM Charter School is a learning community founded on the principles of Love, Grit, and Action. REALM serves students in grades 6-12 with a focus on college preparedness, project-based learning, and social justice.


Learn more about REALM Charter School

The California Department of Education also provides a charter school finder on their website for you to search for additional charter school options. 

What other counties and locations in California are served by tuition-free public charter schools in Berkeley?

Students enrolling in a charter school are not restricted to a certain county or school district. Parents may choose the school that they feel is most appropriate for their child. Charter schools in California must admit any child residing in the state who is qualified to attend California schools regardless of which school district the child resides in.

How do I enroll my child in a tuition-free public charter school?

Charter schools often require an application. Most applications require specific information, including name, address, birth date, name of last school attended, and ethnic background.

If you are considering enrolling your child in a charter school, you should pay close attention to any deadlines regarding that school’s enrollment policy. Some charter schools, particularly those in high demand, will have a waitlist.

Because enrollment policies and procedures vary from school to school, families should contact individual charter schools to obtain specific enrollment information.

Source: http://www.ccsa.org/understanding/families/

What are the requirements for acceptance into a charter school in Berkeley?

By law, charter schools cannot have admission processes that unlawfully discriminate against students. Charter schools accept all students who want to attend. If there are more students who want to attend than there are seats available, a charter school will use a process to randomly select students, oftentimes a lottery system.

Source: http://www.ccsa.org/understanding/families/

How much does it cost to attend a charter school?

Public charter schools are public schools and are tuition-free. Funding for the schools comes from the state.

Are public charter schools high quality?

  • Studies continue to show charter school students make greater academic progress than students in traditional public schools. Sixty-seven (67) percent of California’s charter schools met student achievement targets on state tests in the 2009-10 school year compared to just 57% of non-charter schools.
  • Among traditionally disadvantaged students, those attending charters make greater academic progress than those in traditional public schools. In 2009-10, 74% of charter schools met student achievement targets for disadvantaged students* compared to 59% of non-charter schools. (*these are calculated by assessing California Department of Education “comparable improvement targets”)
  • California’s charter middle schools consistently demonstrate higher academic performance than non-charter schools. For the past five years, charter middle schools have had higher API Growth scores than non-charter middle schools. In 2009-10, middle school charters outperformed non-charters across the state and with all subgroups.

Source: http://www.ccsa.org/understanding/results/


If you are interested in learning more about tuition-free, public charter schools or Realm Charter, please contact us.

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