First-Year iLEAD AV Facilitator Inspires 5th and 6th Graders with Real-World Learning
One of the many aspects of sound project-based learning, as well as good instruction in general, is the idea of application. This is about allowing learners to see their learning come to life in real-world forms and situations. First-year iLEAD Antelope Valley facilitator Michael Suzuki has made this his focus for his 5th and 6th grade learners.
Suzuki knows real-world application gives learners purpose for their learning, which motivates them to learn content. Beyond that, though, he believes that real-world learning develops within learners a new way of thinking and a greater understanding of who they are and can become.
“We can become empowered at an early age. Our life and worldview are developed through real-world learning experiences,” Suzuki said. “The way we think about things and how we experience projects will impact and influence our decisions and opportunities along the way.”
This past school year, this idea took hold in a project about carbon footprints. Suzuki challenged learners with the following driving question: “How can we reduce the carbon footprints for individuals, family and community?” Suzuki’s 5th and 6th graders used resources such as The Nature Conservancy to calculate their individual and collective carbon output per year. Learners were challenged to develop and advocate for their own action step.
“They would encourage their peers and others to take action,” Suzuki said. “They would recommend legislation locally and beyond.”
Suzuki loves that his learners are operating at such high levels, researching and taking action.
“They quickly learned that food consumption and production had a big impact on people’s carbon footprints,” Suzuki said. “They learned about meat and its connection to methane. They learned that this issue is complex and has many contributing factors.”
During the spring semester, Suzuki asked his learners to embark on a project where they used geometric shapes to create a blueprint. Using sound project-based learning pedagogy, he created an opportunity for learners to choose something they wanted to design and use digital modeling, research and Google Slides to present their final designs and ideas.
Using math concepts including area and perimeter, learners created blueprints for places in New York, Canada and Italy or more specific locations, such as the Eiffel Tower, Six Flags over Magic Mountain, or even their school.
“This was not just about the math but about the application of the math. They learned to see things differently and established a point of view,” Suzuki said. “They learned how to explain mathematical data and concepts to a lay audience in plain terms.”
For Suzuki, this is the goal. “If they can take complex ideas and make them meaningful to others, then they are truly owning the learning,” he said.
Learners enjoyed having choice, opportunities for creativity and doing individual projects, according to Suzuki. They also did high-quality academic work at the same time.
“They were excited about their individual designs and the research about their choice,” he said. “While the math part was still sometimes challenging, they had a reason to confront the math.”
Suzuki is confident that if he continues to make learning relevant, his learners will remain engaged and successful.
“I will continue to look for projects that use their creative and artistic abilities to better understand math and other subjects,” Suzuki said. “I want to keep finding ways for them to understand and present their findings about any topic or subject but in very unique, creative and personalized ways.”
See the Blueprint Project Design Guide.
See the Digital Flipbook of the Blueprint Project Presentation of Learning.
Student Work Sample