I've read on your site about project based learning, experience based learning, and phenomenon based learning. How are these different? Are they all appropriate for middle school aged students?


Robyn Scott, Educational Consultant, TutorNerds LLC

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Hi. Project based learning uses real world problems to help children learn. Experienced based learned allows the students to be personally involved and engaged in the learning experience. Phenomenon based learning encourages observation of real world phenomena. I think these are all great ways for middle school students to learn. The teen and pre-teen years provide a tough transition for most students and they often become bored of 'traditional' material. If they can remain personally engaged in their experiences and view the world around them (instead of just in a text book), they may be more likely to gain interest in the school environment. Any form of learning that uses the five senses (such as hands-on experiences in project based learning) is great for the majority of students in this age group.

Lisa Hiton, poet, filmmaker, professor, writer

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To follow-up with Robyn, I thought I might give you a few resources for middle school pedagogies that bring these ideas to life. The first is Expeditionary Learning. EL Schools (for all ages) encourage a tremendous amount of project-based work, which you can see on their website at the Center for Student Work. They also use the expedition model as a means of providing experience-based learning into classroom dialogues and projects. Some of the more elaborate expeditions engage phenomenon-based learning as well (for example, if you look at "The Human Face of Human Rights" video on the site, you will see how students go into communities to experience an issue in the community and make a project to show their thinking about it. Here are the links for EL:

http://elschools.org/ http://centerforstudentwork.elschools.org/ http://centerforstudentwork.elschools.org/resources/human-face-human-rights-illuminating-standards-video

If you'd like some other places to research, I recommend looking at Waldorf Schools for a blend of these. Art schools in general are a great resource for project-based work, as are design schools. If you ask some more questions on the thread, I'd be happy to keep recommending places. Place-based learning is also something that brings some of these ideas together. The Delta in particular seems to be a place in this country where this pedagogy is becoming increasingly encouraged. A college example of place-based learning (which encounters phenomenon and experience) would be Colorado College.

Cindy Terebush, MS Early Childhood Studies, Provider of Professional Development for Teachers

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I'd like to add that project based and phenomenon based learning are appropriate for all ages. They are great ways for early childhood learners to build their knowledge and that continues throughout our lives. When we are engaged with our senses and experience hands-on activities, brain growth is promoted and we remember better what we have done. People of all ages - children and adults - learn best when they can add to their knowledge by being in an experience and explore their curiosity. When we think about our own best learning experiences, they are almost always project or phenomenon based.

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