Our first attempt at Project Based Learning with Year 2 was a short project which took around 2-3 weeks. To describe this project, I’m going to use each of the essential elements of project based learning from this diagram courtesy of the Buck Institute.
Project 1: A School Fair
Duration: 2-3 weeks.
Background: We wanted to find a way to help our students connect the mathematics they were learning to their real world. One of my colleagues sourced a maths text-book series, iMaths, which takes an inquiry approach to teaching maths. The project we developed was based on their unit of work for Year Two called Show Time which culminated in students planning a budget and a schedule for an imaginary visit to the Royal Sydney Easter Show. We took the idea a step further and worked with Year Three to create a real fair to be held on the school grounds, where a real budget and a real schedule would be required.
The Year Two students were each given $20 in play money, and the Year Three students were provided with plenty of play money for change. The products however, ended up being real, with the Year Three students and their families exceeding themselves in their creativity and generosity. For $20 of play money, our Year Two students enjoyed real games and performances, and walked away with bags stuffed with lollies, cupcakes and other products.
The audience for this project was the approximately 150 Year Two and Three students who participated, along with their teachers, family members and other members of the community who saw the excitement and came along to watch.
In Depth Inquiry:
Year Three students needed to ask questions and consider what would make a fair fun and appealing to students. They needed to work creatively to come up with a successful product.
Year Two students needed to consider what the best use of their money would be when setting a budget. They found this process difficult, not wanting to sacrifice one thing for another. Eventually they all planned personal budgets and were able to justify their choices of what to include and what to leave out.
Year Three – How can we run a fair on the school grounds with products, events and performances that will appeal to year 2 students.
Year Two – How can we plan a day at the fair, with a budget of $20 to buy products and participate in events, that will still leave us with $3 to buy a ticket for the show at the end of the day
Need to Know/Voice and Choice
Year Three – To run the fair, the Year 3 students needed to know what a fair was. They studied the Royal Sydney Easter Show and considered the different components that kids enjoyed. Their list included animal displays, the rides, show bags, performances and food.
Voice and Choice was allowed as each group of Year Three students decided on a stall to run.
Their ideas were brilliant. Some of the highlights were:
- A petting zoo, where a small group of students brought in their rabbits and guinea pigs. The Year 2s could buy a ticket to enter the ‘zoo’ stroke the animals and feed them carrots.
- A shooting gallery, where students could fire nerf guns at paper targets taped to a brick wall. There were lolly prizes for each target hit.
- The show bag stall – where students packed paper bags full of hand made book marks, fairy wands, lollies, and other delights.
Year 3 also needed to know about persuasive writing and advertising so that they could create appealing advertisements for their stalls, and depending on the stall they chose to run, they needed to use a range of skills in creative arts, physical education, science, mathematics and English.
Year 2 – To visit the fair, Year Two needed to know about Australian currency, add amounts of currency and plan a budget, as they were required to have $3 left at the end of the fair to see a performance that the Year 3 students had planned for them. They also needed to read time and plan their timetable, as certain events were only happening at particular times. They needed to plan carefully to ensure they didn’t miss the events they wanted to visit.
Revision and Reflection
This was the part of the project that I don’t think we did well, probably because we threw it together in a rush at the end of the term. Instead of having opportunities for revision and reflection throughout the development of the projects, our revision and reflection took place during the fair and then again following the fair. Some of the Year Threes worked out that their stalls weren’t well located or appealing, so throughout the morning they made changes and in some cases moved. They also tried new strategies, such as spruiking to attract business.
Many of the Year Twos spent all their money too quickly, or didn’t visit many stalls because they were hanging on to their cash leaving some Year Threes standing rather forlornly at their empty stalls. Seeing this, we quickly changed the rules and, when students had run out of money, we gave them more. The idea of sticking to a budget was abandoned, however we thought this sacrifice was worth it, as it allowed the students to visit more of the stalls that the Year Threes had put so much work into creating.
Year Three – calculating change, persuasive writing and, depending on the part of the fair each student ran, various creative arts, science, sport and other concepts.
Year Two – reading a timetable, adding amounts of money, working within a budget of $20
21st Century Skills:
To work successfully students needed to:
- Work collaboratively with other students, clearly communicating their ideas and listening to the ideas of others.
- Think creatively, make decisions and solve problems.
- We didn’t use technology at all in this project, other than to look at the website for the Royal Sydney Easter Show, but while that’s certainly encouraged in PBL, I don’t think our project was diminished by its absence.
The fair was and continues to be a highlight of the year for me. The success of the fair was astounding, with such great creativity and team work from the Year Three students. I loved that it gave them a real purpose for using their maths skills. One of our students, who had always struggled with and was normally quite disengaged in maths activities, became obsessed with finding change. He took over one of the registers and spent around an hour happily calculating change for students, practicing and refining his calculation skills. It challenged him, but he loved it and was reluctant to let go of the role when the fair came to an end.
The project certainly didn’t take the place of more traditional forms of instruction. We still needed to take the time to teach money very explicitly, giving students lots of opportunities to practice adding amounts and calculating change. However, the fair showed the students the relevance of this skill. Instead of simply working with money to complete class activities, or to play class games, the students were given a powerful and exciting reason to work with money and the learning experience became much more authentic.
If I was to do this again, I wouldn’t change much. We’d need to re-think how we used the budget as it limited the stalls the students could visit and we ended up abandoning it. However, I liked the concept. It created an urgency for the students. They had to think very critically and consider how they could get the best value for their money. That made it really worthwhile.
- Year in Review: Project Based Learning with Year Two (aboutteaching.wordpress.com)
- PBL with Year 2, Project 2: Improving our Playground (aboutteaching.wordpress.com)
- PBL with Year 2, Project 3: A Review Website (aboutteaching.wordpress.com)