Project-based learning (PBL) was a cornerstone of the Laboratory School curriculum and is very well documented in journals and publications where Malcolm Price Laboratory School faculty implemented this methodology. Diane McCarty's fourth-grade classroom was no exception. From 1992 through 1999 Diane regularly published the results of her classroom projects in teacher journals such as K-8 Teaching.
What is Project-Based Learning? In essence it is a student-centered approach to curriculum that relies less on paper-based, passive, teacher-centered methods. As an alternative to rote memorization and the passive classroom, proponents of project-based learning identify many benefits to the implementation of these active strategies including deeper understanding of problems, broader base of knowledge, emphasis on communication and interpersonal/social skills, opportunities for students to accept leadership roles, a culture of creativity, and enhanced writing skills.
John Dewey promoted the idea of learning by doing when advocating for Progressive Education. In My Pedagogical Creed (1897) Dewey enumerated his beliefs regarding education: "The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these.......I believe, therefore, in the so-called expressive or constructive activities as the centre of correlation."
Project-Based learning and "learning by doing" were the foundations of Progressive Education and thereby constituted a significant influence on the construction of curriculum at Malcolm Price Laboratory School. The projects Diane McCarty promoted in nationally circulated publications are examples of the many exemplary classroom activities that placed the student in the center of the learning process.
Descriptions of student projects in Diane McCarty's fourth-grade classroom can be found linked from the About MPLS Page