Hands-On Learning Benefits Students in All Grades
Hands-on learning methods such as S.T.E.A.M. or Project-Based Learning are effective in building deep content understanding, raising academic achievement, and increasing student motivation to learn.
What Is Project-Based Learning?
Project-Based Learning is an interdisciplinary, academically challenging, dynamic approach to teaching curriculum—providing students with opportunities to investigate authentic situations and create meaningful solutions. Through Project-Based learning, students develop skills considered to be essential and relevant to their future, such as: critical thinking, collaboration and innovation, as well as presentation and public speaking.
S.T.E.M. / S.T.E.A.M. Education vs. Project-Based Learning
S.T.E.A.M. refers to the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, which are taught traditionally and then incorporated into a project.
When using Project-Based Learning methods, educators teach the required skills from these and other subjects, throughout the project. Additionally, Project-Based Learning work is inquiry-based, and may include peer critique, revision and reflection and culminate in a public presentation.
The I.D.E.A. Lab at Tower
The I.D.E.A. Lab is a dedicated space designed to support Innovation, Design, Engineering and Application, and serves as a workspace and technology hub for hands-on learning. The lab facilitates projects with technology such as CAD software, 3-D printers and computers, as well as open workspace for prototyping and testing products. Throughout the lab, students fully utilize a workspace that facilitates collaboration and inspires creative thought.
Christine Stevens of the Marblehead Reporter visited Tower during a sixth grade Boatbuilding Class. The students chatted with Ms. Stevens as they worked, sharing their knowledge of Marblehead's boatbuilding history, their experience learning to split logs and plane planks, and the importance of careful sanding before applying the finish.
The following is an example of a project-based learning assignment, appropriate for middle-school-aged students:
The Assignment: Mount Everest
Students embark upon a fictitious expedition to climb Mount Everest, with the goal of restoring the purity of the environment by removing trash, oxygen bottles and lost or abandoned gear left by decades of climbers.
In preparation, the students study maps, weather and geology. They work collaboratively to determine the best route to the top of Mount Everest, and design a pulley system for efficient trash removal as they ascend. The students itemize the equipment and supplies they will need, set a budget, and apply for funding.
Teachers ensure intentional, directed learning by assigning different tasks throughout the project, and create opportunities for students to incorporate elements that are of interest to them. One student might wish to learn about the impact that varying oxygen levels have on human physiology and brain function, another student might wish to examine the environmental impact of base camp support teams.
Once completed, students solidify their learning through reflection, make appropriate revisions based on peer feedback, and present their final project to a larger audience.
Student work is evaluated based upon pre-determined criteria provided at the outset.