The Power of Project-based Learning: Generating Action From an Idea (Summer Series) | Tanya Sheckley | 3 Min Read

Summer Series 4: Volumes have been written about the PBL approach to student learning over the past 25 years. What you will read here is not more of the same, but a testimonial to using PBL in the K-5 space and a description of real impactful outcomes of PBL that depart significantly from our traditional assessments.

July 6, 2023

Project-based learning produces students who know how to take on projects.  Students who can tackle projects can generate action from their ideas.  Students who know how to take action on their ideas make positive changes in the world.  Knowing how to make change in the world is not only empowering but may be the most important skill worth having as we move towards a continuously more ambiguous future.  The Education 4.0 Taxonomy is all about the skills we need to be successful and the attitudes that help to get us there.  It has very little to do with content.  Project-based learning builds these skills, develops proactive attitudes, and enables our students to be the changemakers the world needs.

This year our kindergarteners and first graders ran a restaurant, our second and third graders launched businesses, and our fourth and fifth graders micro-invested in small businesses around the world.  They created fashion shows, built civilizations, and designed their learning environments.  They constructed a habitat on Mars, cleaned up beaches, and led nature hikes.  They partnered with sand shortage experts, local conservation organizations, and Kiva, the microlender.  They sold their products at a children’s business fair.  They did real things in the real world, they made and invested real money, and they executed their real ideas. 

One of the most common questions I get asked is “When they leave here, how do they do in regular school?”  The answer is, the ones who have left, are bored in ‘regular’ school.  But they are not the only ones; the rest of the students have just gotten used to school being boring.  But those students who have had the opportunity to be part of a project-based education have skills, and when they see something they want to do, they go for it.  

My daughter was one of our first graduates.  She moved to a different setting for middle school.  She enjoys it but finds it’s not project-based, and she spends a lot of time bored or frustrated by not being able to do…

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Tanya Sheckley

Tanya Sheckley is Founder and President of UP Academy, an elementary lab school which values innovation, empathy and strength and incorporates a unique neuro-development program for children with physical disabilities. Tanya’s vision and mission show it’s possible to celebrate differences, change what’s broken in the American education system, and that all children can receive a rigorous, well-rounded education. She is an Edpreneur, Author of Rebel Educator: Create Classrooms of Imagination and Impact and host of the Rebel Educator podcast. She speaks frequently on the future of education and entrepreneurship. She is a rebel educator who works with new and existing schools to question the status quo and develop innovative student experiences through inclusion and project-based learning.