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General Science and Teaching

Project Based Learning in Fifth Grade Science Classroom

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I am looking to trying to incorporate PBL into my classroom this year.  I am finding that there are many options and opportunities in science.  My problem is narrowing the ideas down.  Recycling, Conservation, and Environmental Issues in our community are some of the ideas I am thinking about.  Later in the year maybe looking at Alternative Energies and Fossil Fuels.  Have any of you done any PBL projects in your classroom that you felt were successful?  Any that you tired that were not?  Thanks in advance for sharing.

Deborah Sparby Deborah Sparby 5090 Points

Yes I have done Project based learning. Our story line for our first unit is the Flint Michigan Water Crisis. In that unit we cover the concepts of global water issues, properties of water, Adams, the first 20 elements in the periodic table, chemical and physical changes all too demonstrate how when the project manager didn't add the required chemicals once they switch the water supply, that it caused a chemical reaction in the pipes which released the lead into the water. My County wants the students just to create a public service announcement where they deal with some polluted body of water and decide ways to clean up the water and present that. I am currently in a stem Institute run by Northrop Grumman and in an internship. Instead my idea is to incorporate engineering design to have the students either create a water wheel similar to the Baltimore Harbor that collects trash or to give them polluted water and constraints on cost of each item used to clean the water to develop the best plan to have the most volume of water left after they remove all the pollutants. I introduce the closing project at the beginning of the marking. So the students take notes on the different topics they will need to understand in order to be able to solve the problem. The storyline works very well in time together all the information in order to be able to solve a real-world problem.


Wow Deborah!  What a wonderful project and for such a great cause.  It sounds like you have a ton of support.  I love the water wheel idea.  So you tell what the end product should be (the public service announcement) so that they know where they are going then guide them as they come up with ideas?  Or do you give them specific options and then allow them the freedom to create their project their way?  I love the real-world problem idea.  You have inspired me to dream big.  I would love to hear how your project turns out. Thank you so much for sharing!

Deborah Sparby Deborah Sparby 5090 Points

No. I don't like the county idea, which to me is boring. I think the engineering project allows them to apply all the content into a real world crisis and go through the entire engineering and design process and work in collaborative groups with assigned roles where each has a specific problem they consider. One may deal with chemistry, another with materials management, an integration role to track success and progress towards accomplishing the goal. I work with 6th graders.


Okay, I've got it now. I like the engineering idea better also. I think they will do more good and get more out of it trying to solve a problem more than bringing awareness to one. Awesome!! I really would love to hear how it turns out. Thank you for answering my questions!

Ling Xu Ling Xu 6458 Points

Thank you, from your discussion, I also learned a lot

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