FACULTY PROFILES


PROJECT-BASED LEARNING IN DIANE MCCARTY'S CLASSROOM

 McCarty Cover Picture
The Travelmates Project sent students' stuffed animals traveling throughout
the world.  What a wonderful way to travel the world vicariously.

    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 frequently published articles related to 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.

    Examples of student projects in Diane McCarty's classroom can be found in the following publications:
    • Kids at Work on the Information Superhighway--Reading about how fourth graders at Malcolm Price Laboratory School, one of three elementary classrooms selected nationally, helped to determine the route the Internet would take as it was being developed. 
    • Travelmates Circle the Globe--What happens when kids let their stuffed animals go traveling?  Answer: More than you think.
    • Kids Writing for Kids--Fourth graders look at their hometown from a "kid's eye-view" and publish a community brochure.
    • Fairs with a Flair--Everyone had fun at this K-5 school's festive fairs. Even more important--everyone ended up with good feelings about math and geography.
    • The Great Bike Ride Across Iowa--A fourth grade class "travels" over 400 miles on a stationary bike and picks up facts and figures about the Hawkeye State on the way.  
    • Books + Manipulatives + Families = A Mathematics Lending Library--From the outset it was important that this project be firmly rooted in educational research.  It needed to have a strong basis to gain the support not only of the elementary school staff but also of the parents served by our school.  In addition, the project needed a solid base from which to continue to grow and improve. 
    • Poets Alive--A unit featuring student and adult poets, readings and even a few costumes.
    • Scientifically Speaking...Connecting the Past--A science unit that had fourth graders try their hand as researchers, biographers, script writers and models in a "wax museum".
    • Scientifically Speaking...Connecting the Present--A science unit that involved language arts, social studies and art, plus visits to three different recycling centers.
    • Scientifically Speaking...Connecting the Future--How will science affect our lives in the years ahead?  A science lending library and a series of at-home experiments help students find out. 
    • Read more about her work by going to Diane's complete VITA

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