Did you know that project-based learning is popular all over the globe? The same things that make project-based learning an incredible opportunity for learning in the United States are creating excitement in other countries as well. Project-based learning helps students apply science ideas, learn collaboration, foster SEL, and promote creativity and critical thinking skills. An international organization sought out the ML-PBL curriculum to create PBL units for the international science teaching community.
The ML-PBL curriculum engages students in project-based learning by having students explain and predict phenomena and solve challenging science problems. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental economic organization with 38 member countries, approached the team to translate some of the ML-PBL units for their website. The OECD emphasizes critical thinking and creativity whereas the full set of grade-level ML-PBL units addresses all NGSS PEs for the grade level. These subsets offer lessons that focus on creativity and critical thinking portions for the units and support students in learning some important ideas in the NGSS. The ML-PBL team has just completed five mini-units (subsets of ML-PBL 5-6 week units) that will be posted on the OECD site and will be accessible for teachers in all of these countries to access and use our units to inform their teaching.
Subsets of five ML-PBL units spanning 1st through 4th grade -- Worms, Squirrels, Toys, Birds, and Dynamic Earth -- have been truncated to 10 lessons. Each unit subset supports critical thinking and creativity as well as science learning. The OECD provides a science rubric for assessing critical thinking and creativity rather than the NGSS and CCSS which form the backbone of the ML-PBL curriculum. The rubric is organized around inquiring, imagining, doing, and reflecting.
Creativity and critical thinking and the ML-PBL curriculum
The ML-PBL curriculum is an excellent fit for the critical thinking and creativity rubric because students acquire both skills when explaining phenomena and solving problems. The OECD uses the language of these rubrics in the creativity and critical thinking columns of the lesson overview to identify elements of each of the learning activities that promote fostering students’ creativity and critical thinking. The goal for the development of these skills forms the core of the OECD Fostering Students’ Creativity and Critical Thinking initiative and the reason they requested the ML-PBL team produce the lesson plans – to provide inspiration to teachers for ways in which they could integrate creativity and critical thinking into their regular subject teaching in international contexts. All OECD units, including the Toys unit, will be posted on the OECD Fostering Students’ Creativity and Critical Thinking site.
Now students in Argentina, Spain, and Iran can learn science while collaborating with peers to make sense of phenomena and create artifacts. They will learn about how birds use social skills to survive and then make a bird feeder for a specific species of bird and their kin. And they will develop dynamic earth projects that show predictions over the course of thousands of years - just like students have been doing for 5 years across states in the USA, in Michigan, California, Texas, and Wisconsin!