Project-Based Learning Schools

This video outlines the development of a framework for building project-based learning schools, where kids learn to do first, and to know second.

“We always hear that you’ll never know everything there is to know, and knowledge increases geometrically. So if you take that into account, why are we trying to have kids focus on content? We really should be having them focus on skills. In order to be competitive in the global market, it’s more about skills than about knowledge.”

In this segment, teachers and students at West Hawai’i Explorations Academy participate together in project-based learning. West Hawai’i Explorations Academy is a hands-on, student-centered, open classroom learning environment where students learn by doing.

Project-based learning is based on rigorous, experiential learning through authentic classroom projects. This instructional method challenges students with in-depth, open-ended questions designed to promote inquiry-based problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Heather Nakakura, co-director of West Hawai’i Explorations Academy in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, describes the genesis of the academy.

“We believe that you learn by doing and you should have some sort of control and say to make it meaningful to every individual; it should be based on real world problems and situations, so when they leave here they are ready for whatever they pursue,” she says.

This program will cover the following: defining project-based learning; student-driven learning; project-based curriculum elements; experiential learning; and student projects. These segments will illustrate key strategies for creating a project-based learning environment where students learn by doing.

West Hawai’i Explorations Academy, featured in this program, is a school without walls where students engage in real-world, authentic problem solving. The project-based learning philosophy and strategies in this program can be adapted to most learning environments.

Project-based learning focuses on open-ended questions that stimulate students’ quest for knowledge and understanding. As students delve into a subject with rigorous and relevant hands-on, experiential encounters, they learn to apply what they have learned to the world outside the classroom.

“Allowing the students to start exploring those things that are important to them and trying to have structures in place where they can really make wise decisions about whether they are going to use this or that in the future, that’s the way to go, I think,” says Curtis Muraoka. “And if you focus your education on things that are happening within the community, and you try to bring the students into the community, there’s a large level of relevance that automatically comes from that.”

“It’s not so much what kids can know. You can’t know everything; it’s more about what kids can do—the skill sets that allow them to become knowledgeable about things that are important.“

  • Project-Based Learning School