The effects of implementing project based learning in the middle school science classroom
Dresher, Pamela Ann.
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The purpose of this investigation was to find out if using project based learning in the middle school classroom is an effective method for teaching key concepts in science while engaging students in the practices of science. Traditional science teaching often seems removed from the work that "real" scientists do. By participating in project based learning, students had the opportunity to do the work of a scientist and then apply their learning to a real world problem. During a unit of study on evolution where the focus question was "Do humans affect the evolution of organisms?" students were presented with a scenario asking them to determine the impact humans are having on the natural environment. To accomplish this task, students learned how to do field studies focusing on biodiversity. Using birds as a focus, they took data on campus and at a nearby public park. Using their data, students evaluated the frequency of native birds species on campus and compared this to the frequency of bird species at a local park. Using their understanding of evolutionary concepts, students hypothesized about the reasons for the results of their data. Based on their conclusions, students made recommendations about how an open space on campus should be modified in order to better support the native bird population. The results of this study showed that project based learning is effective for teaching complex science concepts and promoting the learning and use of scientific practices.