School Safety: Ideas for PBL Projects
Creating a safe and supportive learning environment is a critical to a whole child approach to education. Usually when we reflect and work on implementing the Whole Child Tenets in our schools, we forget one critical component in making them manifest: the students. Students are as important as actors in creating a safe school as teachers. They can be actors in helping create a safe learning environment, and project-based learning (PBL) projects can be a way in which we harness that service and target learning in the content areas. Here are some project ideas I have done or have seen other educators create.
School Norms: Often we create norms for students or cocreate them at the beginning of the year. However, you can take this up a notch and have a class or even a grade level create school norms where they address the needs of all stakeholders, including other students, parents, teachers, and even community members. Here students engage in in-depth research for an authentic reason and engage in revision and reflection to make sure the norms created meet the needs of the entire school community.
Guns And Schools: This is obviously a controversial topic, but what better way to engage students than controversy? Through debatable driving questions, students create written products as well as digital media projects to examine the issue. They conduct in-depth research to support their ideas and present the information to a city council or the superintendent to ensure authenticity. Students also rely on community experts like police officers and lawmakers to make sure their work is accurate and well-developed.
Safety Audit: Instead of focusing on safety in just one project, allow students to evaluate the safety of the school and make recommendations. Students can create surveys, analyze data, and also research important related information. This prevents "death by presentation," where all the presentations are the same and therefore bore the audience. In addition, it allows for student voice in topics that interest them and in their opinions and recommendations.
Digital Citizenship: School safety isn't just at the brick-and-mortar facility, it's also in the digital world. Even if you do not teach at a blended or online school, students need the skills to be safe online, and this type of PBL project can help them do that. Students create awareness around the issue or even give recommendations to other students about their "digital footprints." Students have access to choice in products that show their learning, but more important, have an authentic audience to receive it. From websites to letters, there is an opportunity for students to help one another and their community create safe, digital learning spaces.
There are many more school safety projects out there, but these are just some of my favorites. Feel free to take these ideas and use them in the classroom. Now is the time for students to be active in not only examining the topic of safety, but also creating safe schools themselves. PBL can be the key to that work!