STEM teachers give inside look on how Problem Based Learning is designed

Problem Based Learning (PBL) is something that makes STEM School Highlands Ranch unique.  It is our instructional model that gives students an opportunity to flex their innovative minds to try and solve a real-world problem.  For our teachers, it’s an opportunity to come up with creative ways to design and implement instruction that most other schools would simply place on a worksheet.

A PBL model is not simply handed to teachers, but rather, the inception of it is often a collaborative effort, and an exchange of ideas, planning, and techniques.  In February 2021, a group of STEM second-grade teachers met in Mrs. Brook’s classroom to discuss the design of a unit that is focused on the issue of solving the problem of potholes.

“We’re going to kind of start from the beginning and have them figure out how potholes are made, talk about asphalt, and then come up with different materials that they can think of to be able to fill the potholes,” Brook said.  “And we’re going to spend about ten days on it, so it will be a pretty fast-paced PBL that we’re concentrating on, and the kids will have different materials that they’ll have to test, and hopefully will be ready to present in about ten days time.”

STEM second-grade teacher Madison Slater says she can already see how the students will benefit from it once it is added to the lesson plan.

“I’m excited for them,” Slater said.  “It’s using critical thinking skills and they get to work together to solve a real-life problem and I’m excited to see what they come up with.  They all have tremendous ideas and I can’t wait to see how they put it to work.”

To watch both parts on “The making of a PBL unit”, check out the videos below.

A group of STEM elementary school teachers meet to discuss how to create the "pothole PBL"
Teachers go over potential materials for the "pothole PBL"
A bag of material for the PBL that students may end up working with
Students may be tasked with finding an alternative to asphalt to prevent potholes from forming
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