Digging in.. .PBL Style

I’ve finished the first big unit of the school year: Chemistry.  Time for a really cool project break.  I am a big advocate for STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and am always looking for new ways to embed engineering in particular into my lessons.  Its time to build something.

Last year while I was hiding out in the corner classroom away from all human contact that didn’t have to come way down the hall, around the corner and out the back way, other science teachers and math teachers were brewing up a really cool project.  The science teachers involved have moved on, and the one math teacher still interested in the project came to me with a proposal.  Let’s take 3 weeks from our schedule and build something.

So, using the backbone of the project designed last year, we will be saving the world from zombies for the next 3 weeks.  How, you may ask. Here is the scenario:

World War 3 is nearing an end, and in a final, desperate attempt to wipe all life from earth, the “enemy” has sprayed most of the known habitable areas with a bio-agent that turns everyone that inhales it into zombies. There’s no real way to fight them without first developing a plan, so those who escape this horrible fate need a way to stay as far from them as possible, while they come up with a counter plan.  They decide to build float-able islands. 

They come to the one place on earth where scientists, engineers and mathematics are still working to save the world, and ask for help.  Its our job to create, design and then build these islands.  They must float, holding a particular amount of mass, and be navigable.

Our mission is clear.

I can’t wait to get started.

Using PBL templates, math skills and a whole lot of soil, concrete, and lighter substances, we’re going to apply knowledge we have about density to this problem, and get an island to float. 

Using problem based learning tools to apply learning is a great way to show students the connections between disciplines.  This one will not only include math, science and engineering, we’re adding reading and writing.  If the social studies teacher chooses, he can stick some history in this thing too!  I’m all for it!

Have you ever used problem based learning to connect disciplines and apply learning in a new and exciting way for your students?  Check out Bie.org to get more information on Problem Based Learning and how it can be used in any discipline to stretch creative and critical thinking skills.