The Project Approach
“The Project Approach”. Perhaps you’ve heard thisterm thrown around in the Early Learning Center here at Siskin, but what doesit actually mean? According to the Project Approach’s website, it “refers to a setof teaching strategies that enable teachers to guide students through in-depthstudies of real-world topics. Projects have a complex but flexible frameworkwithin which teaching and learning are seen as interactive processes. Whenteachers implement the Approach successfully, students feel highly motivatedand actively involved in their own learning, leading them to producehigh-quality work and to grow as individuals and collaborators.
A project, by definition, is an in-depth investigation of a real-worldtopic worthy of a student’s attention and effort. The study may be carried outwith an entire class or with small groups of students—most often at thepreschool, elementary, and middle school levels. Projects typically do notconstitute the whole educational program; instead, teachers use them alongsidesystematic instruction and as a means of achieving curricular goals”.
To learn more about the Project Approach click here.
Below you will find several first-hand accounts ofhow our teachers in the ELC use the project approach in their classrooms aswell as some of the projects they’ve been working on.
One thing I quicklylearned when I started working at Siskin was that we do things a bitdifferently! You may have heard that we oftendo provocations, but what are they? Put simply, provocations provoke!They provoke thoughts, discussions, questions, interests, creativity and ideas.They can also expand on a thought, project, idea andinterest. Provocations provide an invitation for a child to explore and expressthemselves. They should always be open-ended and provide ameans for expression where possible. We make provocationsinviting in the classroom by using fabrics to “set” the table, arrangingmaterials in new or interesting ways, and adding new materials. The imagesbelow show a provocation that was set up for the fall. The materials weresimple: leaves, rocks, and acorns. Thebook Leaf Man was also displayed. This provocation worked on socialskills (emotions on faces that they created, sharing with friends, etc.), finemotor (small pieces), math (shapes of face/features, how many, etc.), literacy(using/appreciating books) and daily living skills (clean up after yourself sothat someone else can enjoy the space).
Ms. Jazmine, ELC Teacher
The children in Classroom 3 consistently had “pizza” markedin the “ALL” category during lunches, they consistently made each other pizzain the home living center, and they all were thoroughly engaged during our FancyFriday Cooking Experiments. The staff and I all kept notice of this andrealized that we could introduce a Pizza Project into the classroom. We alreadyknew that the full class participated in most of the activities pertaining to pizzaand cooking so it seemed like a no-brainer. We developed a web tobrainstorm with each other as staff members and then afterwards with thechildren (this part of the project-approach lets the teachers see what the childrenknow about the topic). From that we realized that we could venture intodiscussing where cheese is made, how tomatoes are grown, and how to measureingredients to name a few- this would allow us to teach all of the TN-ELDs.From there we explored pizza boxes, cooking with yeast, cutting pizza,delivering pizza, and even going to Community Pie for a field trip (this partof the project allows us to “ask the experts”). The project has really beenamazing. The children have fully engaged in the project and a lot ofindividual education goals have been met. We are concluding our projectwith a class written and illustrated book entitled, If you Give a Kid aPizza. After reading and re-reading If you Give a Mouse a Cookie,the children all contributed ideas for the sequencing of the book. Theythen became the illustrators and drew pictures for each page as well as havingan individual picture in the book. We will be reading the book toClassroom 5 and the Administration in the coming week. As you can see, theproject-approach allowed us to take something as simple as pizza and createsomething so much larger and educational.Ms. Maddie, ELC Teacher
Classroom11 has worked on several projects as a team this year! Once our class learnedabout working as a team, we planned a special project for our grandparents. Thechildren chose poems, created posters about the poems, made and wore costumes,practiced the "show" and presented their "welcome toGrandparent's Day" project to a roomful of pleased and proudgrandparents. The children chose a project about owls and nocturnalanimals after reading the book Owl Babies. Theywere curious about owls so they asked questions to learn more. Theyexpressed their interest in owls by building nests out of boxes and usedbranches to create a habitat for owls. An expert brought a real owl to ourclassroom so we could see a real owl and find out more! One of the mostmeaningful projects classroom 11 worked on was the project to help a classroomfriend "give back" to the Make a Wish group. They decoratedboxes with Disney characters for donations, made posters to ask for donations,explained the project to other classes, counted the donations and made a colorfulartistic card for our friend when he left for his trip. The children keepasking questions, exploring solutions and working together as we learn inClassroom 11.
Ms. Ann, ELC Teacher
The Project Approach looks different in every classroom andevery age. Since I have younger students (2-3 y/o), a lot of the ideas arethrown out to them by us teachers and they build off of those ideas. Whatevertheir response is gives us an idea of if the interest is high enough to start aproject on it. We might do different activities every day of the week andobserve them and take notes on what they say, if they take interest in it andhow much interest shows in order to make the decision on if we will make thisour next project or not. Once we’re in a project, I find it really important forme when creating the lesson plan, to not do a project related activityevery single day of the week. I’ve found that if you do nothing but activitieson that project, the children can sometimes get burned out. I will put no morethan 2 project related activities on my lesson plan for the week. Some of theseactivities take more than one day to complete. Sometimes your class isworking on the same one activity for the entire week. Example: If you want to makeinstruments for your music project, it might take a whole week to gather upmaterials, ask parents for supplies, make the actual instrument, see if itworks, decorate the instrument etc. Also, every activity that we do still meetsthe state standards for their age and we make sure to include a lot ofdocumentation in the hallways as well as hanging up in the classroom.
One of my favorite projects we ever did was a music project.We had the Chattanooga Symphony lend out their instruments to us and let uscheck them in and out whenever we wanted. The Creative Discovery Museum cameand did a lesson on rhythm and the science behind it. The school had the UTC MarchingBand come and play songs on the playground, and to close out our project weheld a Christmas Concert Fundraiser. Parents brought in all kinds of suppliesfor the children to make their own music instruments, and our parents alsosuggested different non-profits in the community to choose to donate all of ourproceeds from the concert to. The entire ELC and families from our ownclassroom were invited to come hear our class sing “Jingle Bells” and give adonation. It was such an amazing experience to see our project come fullcircle. Each step of the way we made sure to include the community in some way,whether that was hanging up bell charms in the trees on the playground for allof the classrooms to enjoy, or raising money for another school that needed newmusical instruments.
Ms. Cristina, ELC Teacher