Here are a few examples of current projects: For one 5 year old, a current interest is photography. He brings in the camera he got for his birthday, shows us the special effects he has used, begins to take a series of photographs of scissors. In fact, he becomes so absorbed in what he's doing that he doesn't hear his mom saying goodbye. For another child it's catfish, giant catfish to be precise. He draws them, learns interesting facts about them and shares them with the rest of us in the morning meeting. Did you know some catfish eat pigeons? It's true and I have been shown a video of this as proof. Another boy has become very interested in Greek and Roman mythology, writing out masses of information about the Hydra and Cerberus. Another child has brought in a water rocket he made with his dad. He has proceeded to experiment at school with using larger water bottles, adding more water, less water, sparkling water and baking soda. This project was such a hit, all the children got involved… adults too. So much learning happening all the time. When you're learning about water rockets, for instance, you're also learning about geometry. Suddenly young children are studying the effects of the angle of trajectory…the angle being important in how high and how far the rocket will travel. How rewarding it is to hear a 4 year old say "let's try a 45 degree angle this time!" and know that he actually understands what he's talking about!
Projects help a child learn to be patient and persistent. They also help children to develop life long learning habits that will serve them well in the future. They learn how to learn while working on a project and they develop their interests.
At Small Acres, each child has a sketchbook in which to keep information, drawings, photos and documentation of projects. Each sketchbook is unique. Some are crammed full of drawings and diagrams, brochures and bits of string. Others are full of writing, lists and pages printed from the Internet. Some children use their sketchbooks throughout the day and others have barely opened them. The sketchbooks come out during skills time when the children over the age of seven use them to document their current work. Keeping a sketchbook is an exciting way to track learning, interests and the development of skills. Children look back at a list they made in October and see how much better their handwriting is in March. They remember fondly an experience that has been documented in photos, they return to a forgotten interest or take a past idea in a new direction.
If you are interested in learning more about project-based learning, I recommend you read
Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert.