mom walking kids to school

As the parent of a student who’s beginning to experience PBL, you’ll start to see some changes in your child.

You might even get an answer to “What did you do in school today?” And you may find yourself pleasantly surprised when your child voluntarily offers up details about what’s happening in their classroom, engaged and animated while describing their day. They may even want to get to school earlier or stay later to work on their project. 

I saw this in my daughter, who last year in 11th grade entered a PBL program in our high school.

Your child’s ability to rise to a challenge may be greater than you ever imagined. That’s because a PBL project is an authentic challenge; kids stretch their abilities naturally, motivated because they genuinely care about what they’re doing. Along with new frustrations to overcome, there are also exhilarating triumphs. From the quality of their work to the experience of preparing and making a presentation in front of a real, public audience, your child may appear more personally and emotionally invested in school than ever before.

The projects my daughter does have a real-world context, often involving the local community. She and her teammates interview local experts as part of their research. They think creatively, learn to communicate effectively, and gain skills for managing a complex project. Compared to just memorizing information and taking tests, the learning experience is much deeper, and retention of knowledge is greater. Projects offer kids—especially those who are not natural test takers—the opportunity for their strengths to shine.

student photo
Here's my daughter, "professionally" dressed &
ready for her first public presentation

As children rise to these challenges, they take true pride in their accomplishments.

They recognize how capable they are, and their confidence grows. As their work makes an impact on their community or the wider world, they gain a sense of their own agency. They prove that they can take responsibility and make valuable contributions. 
Parents whose children experience PBL often share that this is not the school experience they had back in the day, but they wish it had been. They’re proud of what their kids are accomplishing, and excited to see them so challenged and engaged in learning. I know this is true for me!

As part of my job at PBLWorks, I’ve been gathering similar stories from other parents, and students, about the benefits of Project Based Learning:

Marina, student, Heritage High School, Loudoun County, VA:  
“For me, visual learning and being able to work with my hands and being able to choose how I wanted to learn about a topic motivated me to work ahead and gave me an outlet so I could express my own interests and passion for a school project. It gave me the opportunity to be engaged in my schoolwork rather than just regurgitating information.”

Janae, recent graduate of Pearl City High School, Hawai’i:  
“People don’t want to do business with you if you sound like a child and don’t have it together. You have to be professional and know what services you want from them. You have to know how to communicate outside of your comfort zone and organize teams. In college you have to do stuff like this and deal with adults to get interviews.”
Phoebe Brache, student, Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design:
“Before I went to a PBL school it was more about just getting a grade. But in this class I got to choose what I got to do, conduct the project and I got to feel like I could make a difference. With PBL you’re way more engaged. You’re choosing what you’re doing and the work you choose means something to you. I realized when I took the test that I’d absorbed the information a lot better because it was a project.”

Kacy Fernstrom, parent, Goshen Post Elementary School, Loudoun County, VA:
“(My twin boys) have always been creative, but I can tell what you are doing at school is not only motivating them to be more creative, but giving them a framework in how to do it!  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!”

Debbie Woo was the director of marketing and communications at PBLWorks.