Many teachers yearn for authentic learning experiences for their students. I personally favour the model where students aren’t given the answers, but are facilitated to find solutions to problems – after all this is what happens in the real world. This article, below, shows what can be achieved with a problem based learning approach.
A bank in Albuquerque, N.M., had a limited budget to make one of its branches more environmentally sustainable, so students at the local ACE (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) Leadership High School rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They searched websites for green design options, consulted with an engineer, and used spreadsheets to compare potential costs and energy savings.
With their newfound knowledge, the students used SketchUp software to create their designs, which included 3-D renderings of floors made from recycled materials and a roof that would capture rainwater. In presenting their final plan, the students gave bank officials a digital tour of the new building, showing off various design options.
This effort could serve as a model of project-based learning (PBL), which focuses instruction on real-world challenges and requires collaboration, creativity, and problem solving. But what makes this particular project more remarkable is the students’ expert use of the SketchUp modeling tool to present and revise the finished product.
“It was a way to prototype ideas and make them visible to share with the client,” says Suzie Boss, author and educational consultant. “The students were working in the way that architects do.”