I did a little work recently, updating the LifePractice PBL website. This is where Kevin Honeycutt and I share our Project/Problem Based Learning “recipe cards.” Thinking about our work, which has been in progress for the past 9 years, I thought I’d share a little behind-the-scenes story.
Most of you know that Kevin and I have been partnering since 2006 on this project. I was hired to start a school that had a PBL foundation with 1:1 laptops for learning. It was the most difficult and most awesome thing I have ever done. Kevin, who was a budding consultant at the time, would drop in with his AMAZING ideas and over 5 years, we grew that program, doubling it in population (plus) twice and expanding K-12. We created the LifePractice PBL model right there in that extraordinary education petri dish. And the school is still going, for those of you interested to know.
As I stepped away and began helping other teachers figure out how to engage their own kids in deeply cognitive, active, personalized, and fun work, I started writing the best PBL units we had done.
Again, I was faced with a serious task. We had done many PBL units at our school across the curriculum, and I was being asked out to schools on a growing basis to answer questions for teachers — and they were hungry for examples. I was under tremendous pressure to get examples ready to share. Additionally, our work would be implemented at all age levels, elementary though high school, in all content areas, including core classes and electives, and a teacher would be able to use as much or as little technology as was at her kids’ fingertips.
So I started writing the unit project plans. NINE PAGES into the first lesson plan, Kevin reminded me that no teacher was ever going to read (or use) a NINE PAGE lesson plan! He encouraged me to start over, making it the size of a 3×5 recipe card.
A recipe card?! For all those possibilities? For real?!
So yet once again, much of what I’d been taught as a preservice teacher flew out the window! Yay! And we started breaking it down to its essentials…to its ingredients. And we did it.
You see, the LifePractice PBL Recipe Cards are not necessarily recipes, per se. A teacher doesn’t just sit down with the card and her kids and begin with “step 1.” No, these cards are created to be highly customizable to fit the needs of the teacher, the curriculum, and the needs and interests of her students. If you’ve seen the cards, you’ve noticed that they are more like guides for cooking up healthy options for learning. Each content area is an “ingredient” in a much larger challenge/problem. And the back of the card gives some general ideas for how to get your kids going for that challenge–including tips that busy teachers might appreciate.
After several years of working with all sorts of educators, the “recipe cards” seem to appeal to two types of teachers;
- the teacher who has trouble seeing her content inside an integrated approach, or within a non-traditional topic.
- the teacher who is already cooking up amazing PBL with her kids and doesn’t have time to slow down to make her own masterpieces from scratch. These teachers truly appreciate the “browse-ability” of these PBL-starters.
And just like every good chef, teachers are encouraged to find ways to customize the cards to her own kids’ learning needs. What cognitive-nutrition and skills do each of my kids need to grow into healthy human beings?
You see, our LifePractice PBL recipe cards are not step-by-step, checklisted recipes, but instead, they are simply the size of a recipe card (although I couldn’t keep them at 3×5 — they grew to 5.5×7 and 8.5×11). And then they’re shared through the analogy of “cooking up good learning.”
Ok, I can feel myself getting all worked up about our cards, so I’ll finish now, but I thought some of you might appreciate the backstory to our LifePractice PBL recipe cards and how they came to be called “recipes.” It’s simply about moving from a 9-page lesson plan to something more accessible and customizable.