Saturday, August 4, 2012

Project Based Learning


 What is PBL?
The Buck Institute created this helpful video for teachers.

These are some fun PBL projects I have done in my kindergarten class.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
The Kinders wanted to create an outdoor classroom called The Light Bulb Lab.
Watch our part 1 of our video 
(part 2 is coming soon).
Learn more about this project here.

Spooky Haunted House
In the beginning of the year, we focus on shapes. We created a spooky haunted house using household, recyclable objects. To make this project more meaningful, students brought their own items in from home.

Step 1: We found cylinders, spheres, cubes, rectangular prisms

                                     Step 2: Allow students to glue the objects on the board

Step 3: Paint it black

                 Step 4: Add cobwebs and spooky objects (we added lights and cheap Halloween trinkets)

Follow-up activity: 
We made a class book called "Our Spooky Haunted House".
A _____________ lives in my spooky haunted house.  

We have mini-october conferences, so this was a fun way for parents to see our first project displayed.
Students were able to point to the objects and name the shapes. 

Finally, we put our haunted house up FOR SALE! We made signs and brochures.
Our real-estate agent was Frank N. Stein.  Count Dracula bought it from us!

Shape Cracker Graph 
While learning about shapes, we also explored "food" shapes in our world. We brought in various crackers and sorted, graphed and ate our favorite shape crackers.

We had our own Presidential Elections in Kinderworld!

Community Helpers Unit:
We learn about community helpers in our neighborhood and have a variety of workers visit our school.
During this unit, students are asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
At the end of the unit, each student comes to school dressed up as what they want to be and does a small presentation.
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Watch our PBL Career Day Project from 2012.
Below are pics from 2011.
Santee Firefighters

I dressed up as a firefighter!!

 Police Officers

 Some of my little cuties:
Dolphin Trainer
Military Worker
SWAT Officer


Baseball Player

Construction Worker

Neighborhood Project:
This is one of my favorite projects of the year and the kids LOVE it!!!!
Each student chooses a model to construct and together we build our neighborhood.

Step 1: We plan out our neighborhood and decide on our models
(each student has to pick something different)

Step 2: We decide on jobs (painters, engineers or architects)

Students paint blue water and green land

Architects and Designers create traffic signals and signs

This is VERY student led. They can do whatever they want: staple, glue, cut, color, tape...

Engineers develop bridges and docks

They can use any materials to create their bridges: Legos, Lincoln logs, popsicle sticks, etc

I try not to interfere at all and them them build all on their own.
Their creativity and imagination is wonderful!


Taco Bell

Fire Station




Before putting the neighborhood together, we have a big class discussion about where we should put our models. Students come up with great explanations.
Adorable examples:
"Lets put the hotel by the airport. When I fly on a plane, I need a hotel to stay in."
"Put the dinosaur museum next to the school so we can take a field trip there. It will be close so we can walk."
"We need to put the railroad track all around the neighborhood so people won't get lost and they will always be able to get around if they don't have a car."
"Put Starbucks next to the movie theater. My mommy likes to drink coffee when she sees a movie."

Finally, students put the town together.

All finished!!!!!

Last, we name our neighborhood!!!

Watch a video we made on PIXIE of our neighborhood!

 Habitat Day:
After learning all about animals and their habitats, we had habitat day!
My amazing room mom. brought in all her pets.
Goal: to learn become scientists and have fun
observing, writing, exploring, discovering, noticing and of course WONDERING!!!
At each station, the kids used their habitat journal and wrote about their observations.
A ______'s habitat has ____________.

We had 5 stations and we rotated about every 5-10 minutes:

Station 1: Toads (students wore lab coats)

Station 2: Rats (students used magnifying glasses)

Station 3: Hamsters (students received a science name badge)

Station 4: Fish (students wore glasses)

Station 5: Lizards and Snakes (students used ipods to take pictures)

Bird Nests:
The kids created giant bird nests! They had to go outside and collect any materials they believed birds would use (sticks, leaves, feathers, etc).
They worked in groups to build bird nests.
Note: next year, I don't want to use glue. I also think it would be fun to give kids tweezers (like beaks) to use to collect the items.

Recyclable Project!
We used recyclable objects from home to create reusable items. I allowed the kids to choose whatever they wanted to create. They come up with the cutest ideas (i.e., race car, castle, remote control car, robot mailbox, etc). Most of the kids worked in groups.

Gingerbread Man Exchange:

After our gingerbread man unit, we sent our homemade gingerbread boys and girls all over the world to friends and family. We marked our world map and noted all the places our gingerbread boys and girls visited. We also kept a binder with all the letters, photos and goodies.



  1. We are using your Spooky Haunted House as a springboard for our PBL...question: what kind of glue did you use to put "glue" your shapes together? Did you have your children work in groups or was this a whole group activity?

    1. Hi Pam!
      I used hot glue.
      First, we brought in shapes for the whole week and discussed the shapes all week.
      We worked in small groups of 4-5 to put build the house. The kids have 100% choice of where everything goes. When they decide on a shape, they have to tell me the name of it and where they want it and I hot glue it on.
      We also work in small groups to paint it (usually takes 2 days), and then small groups to add the web and spooky details.
      Have fun! This is one of my favorite projects!!!

  2. Hi Jaimie! We are loving your PBL ideas! We're working on the haunted house now. What kind of paint did you use? We're finding that washable paint slides right off the shiny boxes and we're trying to stay away from spray paint so the kids can do it...they're SO excited!!!

    1. Hi! We use the regular black "crayola" paint. We definitely spend 2-3 days painting the house. I noticed the paint won't stay on water bottles, shiny material (like party hats) or certain plastics. Allow the kiddos to spend 2-3 days painting it and then use black spray paint just to cover what the paint wouldn't. Note: I do that without the kiddos. Have fun!!!!!!

  3. How do you start the topic? And how do you deal with bilingualism in your class?

  4. Thank you for sharing all your ideas! As a first time kindergarten teacher I have found this so helpful!! Your ideas are amazing!

  5. I love this blog post! My school is encouraging PBL classrooms this year. I know I will be recreating some of these projects in my classroom this year! Thanks for sharing!!!!

  6. I have merged tow projects together as i think they correlated nicely. About the Neighborhood and the Community Helpers. the town looks amazing. what materials did you provide to make the buildings.

  7. Working on Habitats now, would love to know what the kids did at each station? And if you could send/share the worksheets/journal?

  8. I really like your Neighborhood and Community Helpers Project. Did you make all of the places in the classroom or did they make the building at home and bring them in?

  9. I will be jumping into PBL next school year and I am so excited that I found your blog!! I can not wait to do the community helpers and neighborhood!!! Thank you so much for sharing these fabulous ideas!!!

  10. Hello! I have been searching for Kindergarten appropriate to PBL projects and LOVE your ideas. How long do you spend on each project? Specifically the Community Helpers and Map project. We are putting our plan together now and trying to plan how long they may take. :)

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  12. Found ur blog interesting and informative. Do share your ideas in details as we alll are learners of need some guidelines for further information

  13. Found ur blog interesting and informative. Do share your ideas in details as we alll are learners of need some guidelines for further information

  14. Great activities!!! thank you so much for sharing!

  15. I really like these ideas> i have several questions. Can these be adapted to Pre-K and where did get all of your supplies? Do the parents provide them or you just have that already in your classroom. Do you make the models of the buildings for the community neighborhood project in class or do they do it at home with parent help?

  16. WOW! You are doing great things for your students! I am inspired by you!!!!

  17. Have you done any PBL on the weather?

  18. Have you done any PBL on the weather?

  19. Your projects are awesome! This is my first year teaching in an Innovative Lab and working with younger students and I have been struggling to find ideas for PBLs at this level. Thanks for the ideas!

  20. HI. I am a Kindergarten teacher from VT and I am interested in doing more PBL units with my kids. I am curious if you have mandated literacy and math programs and how that fits in with your PBL units, or if you have complete autonomy on how and what you teach. I am also curious how you start your year to get kids thinking about deeper questions and inquiry. Do you do guided inquiry in the beginning of the year and then branch out to more independent projects? How do you ensure that the standards are met? I would love to know more about how you do PBL. Thank you! Kristina Safford

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  22. Do you have a lesson plan that goes along with the birds nest?

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