Handbook of Engaged Learning Projects




For teachers new to problem-based learning. A step-by-step lesson plan on how to facilitate this unit.

Summary - Scenario - Background - Student Homepage - Site Index

Before the project begins, you may wish to locate a local prairie (if available) to use as a resource. Since information on the Fermilab prairie is available online, students are guided to use that prairie if a local prairie is unavailable. Some student experience with group work and use of technology including the Internet will be very useful for this project.

Task A. Introduction of the Prairie Problem

Step 1. Have students read or preview the Smallville newspaper article. You can either provide a paper copy or have the students view the article online.

Step 2. Discuss the contents of the article. Guide students to make a problem statement, find out what they already know from this newspaper story, and determine what they need to know in order to solve the problem. This should help provide a focus for student research. Brainstorm potential developers and obvious positive and negative attributes of such developments and how they may affect the local economy, growth, culture, etc.

Step 3. Have students review the map of Smallville Township and then discuss the possible impact the construction may have on the area.

Task B. Forming Groups and Getting Started

Step 1. Create as many groups (of approximately four students each) as needed for your class size. One group must be the Prairie Advisory Council. Others may choose their own development project. They may select one from the list in the article or brainstorm one of their own. Online resources are provided for the companies in the list only.

Step 2. Review the bidding requirements and deadlines. The background information includes information about parts of the town council presentation.

Step 3. Have students meet in groups to discuss their plan of action, division of responsibilities, and project time line.

Task C. Research and Preparation

Step 1. Communicate to the students specific time frames and deadlines for the research and preparation phase of this project. Many buildings will have limited Internet access for a variety of reasons. Careful planning may be necessary to ensure equal access for all student teams!

Caution students about "suspicious" links. Even with protected software, unsavory sites are occasionally accessible. This is also a good time to review your school's Internet usage rules and policies.

Step 2. The students should begin researching company information and/or prairie information found in the online resouces. Review with them the need to carefully log their relevant links. Encourage students to prepare a list of keywords prior to accessing the Internet. You may want to review advantages and disadvantages of using specific search engines. During this research and preparation phase the teacher can work with individuals and groups to provide feedback and assist in finding, organizing, and analyzing information.

Task D. Group Presentations

Step 1. Select town council members as you wish. You might elect one student from each interest group. The inclusion of real town council members, older students, administrators, counselors, faculty members or parent volunteers can be an interesting addition.

Step 2. You may want to remind the town council members of the rules and requirements that each group must meet to be considered a valid presentation candidate (e.g. have completed the environmental impact statement, etc.).

Step 3. Schedule time for each group to present their proposal. You may want to assign time limits to facilitate the presentations. Students wishing to utilize technology for their presentation should arrange for the appropriate hardware and materials.

Step 4. Along with having the town council select the proposal which will best represent the interest of the town, individual students should make their own selections. Remind all students that they must justify their selection of a particular proposal based on factual arguments. The teacher could compile the results of the townspeople's (students) choices and compare the result to that of the members of the town council.

Task E. Assessment

Assessment should be frequent and ongoing throughout the project. Students should self-assess as they work on each project component. Informally and formally, the teacher can note group dynamics, ease of use of technology, and progress on the project documents.