Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers


September 16, 2019

Creativity. Collaboration. Persistence. Questioning. Impulse control. Increased motivation. Improved academic performance. When students engage in project-based learning, these are just some of the outcomes you can expect to see.

Why does it work?

Project-based learning builds on the theory that learning is more likely to “stick” when it’s active rather than passive. Projects help students actively discover, process and apply new information rather than passively get information from textbooks, lectures or worksheets.

How does it work?

For thousands of years, educators from Confucius to Montessori and Piaget have outlined steps to help students define questions that lead to exploration, discovery and a lasting love of learning. The Y4Y Project-Based Learning course is a step-by-step guide to using this hands-on learning approach in your program. Briefly, it goes like this:

  • Check student interests to identify a topic to explore. This might be cleaning up the local river or learning how rockets work.
  • Guide students as they develop a driving question to organize the learning. Keep in mind the specific skills you want to help students master.
  • Help students create a project plan and timeline. They’ll need to decide on a product or outcome that will demonstrate their learning. Creating a product with real-world relevance motivates and rewards student efforts. They might build a model rocket, create a video to encourage community members to act against pollution, develop a how-to guide so others can replicate their work or create multiple products.
  • Facilitate the process as students work in groups to conduct research, brainstorm ideas, develop answers to their driving question and complete their projects.
  • When the final products are complete, celebrate student learning with an event that helps show off the work.

Ready to start exploring?

The Introduction section of the Y4Y Project-Based Learning course provides an overview. The Y4Y Project-Based Learning Project Planner is a handy checklist and reminder to help you facilitate this kind of learning in your program. For examples of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects completed by students in other 21st CCLC programs, see the Y4Y National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration project overview page.