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


February 23, 2018

Every discovery or invention of our time started with a question: When an apple falls from a tree, what makes it fall down instead of sideways or up? Is there a way to use this weak glue I accidentally created while trying to create a strong adhesive? (The answer to the latter question was yes, and if you’ve ever used a Post-it note, you’ve seen the result!)

“The important thing,” Albert Einstein said, is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

What are you curious about? What are your students curious about? Y4Y’s newly updated Project-Based Learning course shows, step-by-step, how to tap into students’ natural curiosity by awakening a sense of wonder about people, places and things in the world (indeed, the universe) where they live.

Chapter 1, “Introduce and Prepare,” provides a proven strategy for tapping into students’ questions or “wonders” to get them excited and prepared for project-based learning. Here’s a quick snapshot of the strategy:

  • Mind mapping helps students identify what they already know about a topic (for example, zoo animals).
  • Brainstorming helps them identify things they wonder about (for example, whether putting endangered species in zoos helps the species survive, or where zoos get food for all the different animals). Even if your students’ curiosity seems as dormant as an inactive volcano, this activity can get their thoughts flowing. As their questions or “wonders” erupt, don’t be surprised if they overflow the whiteboard or chart paper as they write them down!
  • Voting is a democratic approach for agreeing on a topic or issue to explore.
  • Discussing the topic helps students drill deeper into why they selected the topic and what aspects they’d like to explore through a project. Guiding questions such as “What interests you about…? Have you ever…? Why do you think it’s important to…?” facilitate the conversation and help students connect their “wonders” to real-life experiences.

That’s the strategy, in a nutshell, for preparing students to write a strong driving question that will focus inquiry throughout the project. The course walks you through the strategy with an example to show exactly how it works.


Curious about other strategies for using project-based learning to awaken an Einstein-like sense of wonder in your students? Check out the updated course. You and your students will be glad you did!


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