The end of the calendar year brought with it a wonderful opportunity for the sixth graders to work cooperatively on a middle school project which focused on endangered species. This Project Based Learning or PBL had our students engaged in deep research in their science classes to find out as much as possible about the impact human activities have had on habitat and species loss. Through meticulous data collection and analysis, they were able to make connections between climate change and the potential extinction of their chosen species. Once they collected all of their data, they were tasked with filming an educational video to educate others on the challenges facing their species and how the risks to these animals could be mitigated by legal, behavioral, or environmental changes. The students worked long hours to record their videos using the school’s ipads. Their creativity and knowledge really shone through in the videos that they produced. The final step of the PBL process involved writing research papers which addressed the current state of their species, the challenges facing them, and possible solutions. It took weeks of painstaking effort for them to craft these research papers which were reviewed and edited by their peers and teachers on numerous occasions. The culmination of this project took place before we left for break. Parents and family members were invited to our school to view and explore all of their hard work. Parents saw a presentation which took them through the process their kids followed throughout the PBL and following this presentation they dispersed to various classrooms to view their kid’s videos. The videos were received with a mixture of excitement and wonder at what the students were able to produce. It was the hope of the students that they would make their parents aware of the hardships facing their species and that ultimately they could all play some role in reducing the chances of their animals becoming extinct.
Throughout this PBL the teachers had the opportunity to observe their students completely immersed in their projects. The students didn’t need any prodding or motivation. They were truly intrinsically driven by the nature of the project. We were all so impressed with the countless hours they spent on refining their findings and editing their videos to perfection. At the inception of this project we wondered whether the students would stay engaged for so many weeks, but in reality the weeks sped by with total engagement by all involved. It was wonderful to see the pride and joy with which the students presented their projects to their parents. The students walked away from this project not just more aware of their roles and responsibilities on Earth, but also the ability to work cooperatively and produce significant and engaging final products. This PBL left us with indelible memories and skills which will last a lifetime.