Project-Based Learning Resource List

Prepared to accompany sessions at New Mexico Highlands University Professional Development’s C.O.R.E. Institute By LyndaSuzanne Shanks in Las Vegas, New Mexico 

Later Additions:  

How to Write Effective Driving Questions for Project-Based Learning





Help Sections Within ThinkQuest

Section 5: Plan and Create Projects    

Steps for Planning and Creating Projects

1.Plan Your Learning Project
Follow these high-level steps to plan your learning project. The presentation and video lessons below elaborate on these steps.

2.Select Curriculum and Standards
Look at your lesson plans and select the curriculum you want to teach for your learning project, and decide what students need to learn. Create an authentic, engaging, open-ended essential question or problem that has meaning and relevance for the students. Use real-world subject matter that causes the students to feel that they are making an impact by answering the question and/or solving the problem.

3.Determine the Project Scope
Decide the scope of the project. For your first project, select one or two classroom lessons with just a few learning outcomes. For example, teach students the names of the different Native American tribes, or the geography of a country.

4.Create a Timeline of Activities
Create a timeline of the lesson activities and project milestones. For each classroom activity, identify what students will learn and what they will produce. Schedule due dates for assignments, final products, and assessment. Share this timeline with students so they can manage their time.

5.Create Your Project Framework: Project Settings and Pages
Create your project framework in ThinkQuest Projects. Define your project settings and create pages for each lesson activity. Upload rubrics and assessment criteria so students know what is expected of them. You may also create a page for each student team to collaborate on activities and submit their work.

6.Upload Lesson Content
Write directions for project activities, upload online resources, and create interactive discussions using the content creation tools on your project pages.

7.Assign Students to the Project
Decide which class(es) will work on this learning project. Decide if students will work individually or in teams. Assign the students to the project. If you have teams, assign each team to a project page where they can collaborate and post their work. For your first project, you may want to work with just one class.

8.Implement the Project
When you have created your project, added lesson content, and added students, you are now ready to implement the project with your students. Keep notes during the project process so that you can improve the next project.

9.Solicit Student Feedback
Schedule time at the end of the project for students to discuss, analyze and reflect on what they learned during the project. Have the students reflect on the essential question, the content they learned, and the process and outcomes of the project.

10.Manage the Project
As the project coach, you will guide and manage your students throughout the project. Oversee student activities and provide guidance, structure, and feedback when appropriate. Support students’ thinking, and challenge them to go beyond obvious answers.

Presentation: Planning Learning Projects

This presentation covers the steps involved in planning a learning project.

Document: World Traveler Project Plan

This document includes the steps for planning and creating the pages for this project.

Video: Create Your Project in ThinkQuest

This lesson teaches you how to create your project and use the project tools and features in ThinkQuest Projects. (14 minutes)

File Type: application/x-itunes-itlp: 6.27 M

Video: ThinkQuest Projects Best Practices

This lesson gives you a tour of the World Traveler project to show you examples of ThinkQuest Projects Best Practices in action. (5 minutes)

ThinkQuest Projects Best Practices

Experienced teachers who use ThinkQuest Projects have identified the following best practices for developing learning projects.

1. Choose a project theme that relates to students’ lives or a real-world topic.
2. Define learning goals that are realistic, achievable, and aligned with your local education standards (if applicable).
3. Create a chronological list of tasks that students must complete to achieve the learning goals. Use the estimates to create a project timeline. Compare the timeline to class schedules to ensure that it is realistic and achievable.
4. Add the key outcome or product of each task. For example, a product could be an online report, presentation, or artwork portfolio.
5. Determine how and when students will be assessed.
6. Share the project goals, timeline, and assessment criteria with students early on to set expectations and increase their chance of a successful outcome.
7. Monitor student progress throughout the project, and provide constructive feedback to improve the quality of their work.
8. Provide students with feedback after the completion of their final products.
9. Celebrate successful completion of a project to motivate students for participation in future projects.

Exemplary Projects

  • Exemplary Projects

    This list contains some project examples you can view to give you ideas and inspiration for your own projects.

  • Spotlight Projects

    These projects are voted on by other teachers as the best new projects in ThinkQuest Projects.

  • ThinkQuest Library Projects

    These projects were created by student teams who participated in a past ThinkQuest Competition.

  • Share the Skies (Astronomy/Science)

    This project is appropriate for grades 5-9 science students. Share the Skies is dedicated to providing students and teachers to opportunity study astronomy in real time during the daytime without leaving the classroom..

  • World Traveler (Geography/Social Studies)

    This learning project teaches students about the different countries in the world by allowing them to research and plan a trip to one of these places. This is the case study project for this course. Feel free to use this project as a template for your own learning project.

  • Sue the T-Rex and Other Dinosaur Discoveries

    On May 17, 2000 The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois unveiled Sue, the largest, most complete, and best preserved T. Rex dinosaur fossil yet discovered. This project teaches about Sue and her discovery.

  • Farming, Food and Fair Trade (Economics/Social Studies)

    The aim is to compare what foods are available in your own and your partner school’s country. Students identify which countries are consumers, and which countries are self-sufficient and look at the merits and disadvantages of interdependence.

  • World is Ours, We are One (Social Studies/Citizenship)

    A project for students and teachers from India, Australia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Indonesia. In this project, schools will work towards a dream for a better world that is equitable, prosperous, peaceful and a happy place for all. They will work to accomplish these goals by creating a learning project on a selected sub-theme.

  • Shiloh Book Club (Language Arts)

    This project teaches 4th grade students how participate in literature circles. Students read and respond to the book “Shiloh.”

  • Wastewater Story (Science)

    The purpose of the project is to create awareness among students and in society about importance of clean drinking water and how to manage wastewater.

Section 5 Practice: Try It!

After you complete this section, try the following activities:
  1. Review your lesson plans and select one of your classroom lessons to use as the basis for your first learning project. Design a project plan. For your first project, you may want to select just one of your classes to work with.
  2. Create a new project in ThinkQuest Projects by clicking the New Project button on the My Home, My School, or World tabs. Create your lesson activities on the project pages.
  3. Add the students from your selected class to the project.
  4. Launch the project with your class.
Help Section: Project Setup
Help Section: Assign Students to a Project
Help Section: Find and Join Projects
Help Section: Find People and Schools
Help Section: Best Practices and Examples
Classroom Guide: Top Ten Tips for Assessing Project-Based Learning
What’s Inside the PDF?
  1. Keep It Real with Authentic Products
  2. Don’t Overlook Soft Skills
  3. Learn from Big Thinkers
  4. Use Formative Strategies to Keep Projects on Track
  5. Gather Feedback — Fast
  6. Focus on Teamwork
  7. Track Progress with Digital Tools
  8. Grow Your Audience
  9. Do-It-Yourself Professional Development
  10. Assess Better Together
  11. BONUS TIP: How to Assemble Your PBL Tool Kit


Project Fun Way: When Project Learning and Technology Meet by Kathy Baron
By giving every middle school student a new laptop, the state of Maine strapped new wings on project learning. For both teachers and students, the learning process has soared beyond the classroom.

Get Globally Connected from Sylvia Tolisano, Global Learning  &

  • If we want Web Literate Students, We Need to be Web Literate Educators.
    As an extension to my first blog post “Add a Global Perspective to your Google Search“, I wanted to add a video that was inspired by last week’s keynote presentation by Alan November at CMI 2011. If we want web literate students,…
  • Curriculum 21- Global Partnership Site
    Heidi Hayes Jacobs and I have been working on a curated Global Education site that will bring resources to educators to address global awareness, skills, literacies and competencies in their schools and classroom. The site hopes to facilitate conn…
  • The Global Competency Matrix
    The Global Competence Matrix was created as part of the Council of Chief State School Officers’ EdSteps Project, in partnership with the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning. You can download the matrix (pdf) here. The main competencies ar…
  • Add Global Perspectives to your Google Search
    When you are multilingual, you are used to the fact that news is being reported differently (from another point of view/perspective) in different countries. Before the Internet, you only knew this, when you were traveling between countries, spoke …
  • Life in a Day on Planet Earth
    Fascinating tribute to humans on planet Earth and our similarities and differences.
  • Guide to Globally Connected Learning Flyer
    You can download the Guide to Globally Connected Learning Flyer (pdf) here. Globally Connected Learning(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scri…
EDUTOPIA CHANNEL INTRODUCTION TO PBL  [includes several videos about the processes and challenges]
PBL in a Foreign Language Classroom
Project Based Learning at Spirit Lake Middle School
Project Learning — Middle School — Art
Project Learning —Middle School — Gender Roles / Social Studies
Middle school students at the Greater Brunswick Charter School in New Jersey complete an interdisciplinary project about gender roles  …
From: edvisionsschools | Apr 22, 2011 | 697 views
Made in 2002 - An introduction to Project Based Learning from the student perspective. Filmed at Minnesota New Country School in Henderson, MN.
From: edvisionsschools | Jan 17, 2011 | 77 views
Self-directed Project Based Learning - Individual/group projects complemented by multiple teaching and learning approaches based on student needs and interests

Project-Based Learning Plugged In !
From A Workshop by 
21st Century Schools

Research has shown us that project-based learning is the most effective way to deliver the curriculum. Students become more engaged and motivated, which naturally leads to higher levels of learning. Contrary to what some believe, project-based learning is not just for small children, nor is it fun and games. Designed properly, project-based learning will challenge all students to perform at the highest levels, requiring them to:

  • Think critically

  • Think creatively

  • Collaborate

  • Develop Global Competencies

  • Access the knowledge in the disciplines

  • Develop effective oral and written communication skills

  • Apply their learning by designing products and performances

  • Assess their own learning

  • Develop as a self-directed, independent and interdependent learner

  • Integrate technology meaningfully


Your project design should include:
  • High level learning outcomes
  • Big Questions to guide student research

  • Resources, activities and materials (a beginning list)

  • Authentic Assessments

  • Standards alignment

  • Global competencies alignment

  • 21st century skills

  • Multiple literacies for the 21st century

  • Technology Tools to be implemented

Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience

Project-based learning helps students apply what they learn to real-life experiences and provides an all-around enriching education.

by Edutopia Staff

Project learning, also known as project-based learning, is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curriculum skills while working in small collaborative groups.

Because project-based learning is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying. Research also indicates that students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach far more readily than through traditional textbook-centered learning. In addition, students develop confidence and self-direction as they move through both team-based and independent work.

VIDEO: Project-Based-Learning Overview

Running Time: 9 min.

In the process of completing their projects, students also hone their organizational and research skills, develop better communication with their peers and adults, and often work within their community while seeing the positive effect of their work.

Because students are evaluated on the basis of their projects, rather than on the comparatively narrow rubrics defined by exams, essays, and written reports, assessment of project-based work is often more meaningful to them. They quickly see how academic work can connect to real-life issues — and may even be inspired to pursue a career or engage in activism that relates to the project they developed.

Students also thrive on the greater flexibility of project learning. In addition to participating in traditional assessment, they might be evaluated on presentations to a community audience they have assiduously prepared for, informative tours of a local historical site based on their recently acquired expertise, or screening of a scripted film they have painstakingly produced.

Project learning is also an effective way to integrate technology into the curriculum. A typical project can easily accommodate computers and the Internet, as well as interactive whiteboards, global-positioning-system (GPS) devices, digital still cameras, video cameras, and associated editing equipment.

Adopting a project-learning approach in your classroom or school can invigorate your learning environment, energizing the curriculum with a real-world relevance and sparking students’ desire to explore, investigate, and understand their world. Return to our Project Learning page to learn more.

Make Your Own Project-Based Lesson Plan
Develop an educational project that includes a specific 
outcome while teaching academic skills
Gloria J. Edwards
Educator and Curriculum Development Specialist

Best Practices in Project-Based Learning from Educon 2010

A “good project” has/is…
  • well designed rubric - measure learning and guides learning
  • reality based
  • choice
  • inductive not deductive
    • open to further questioning
  • Empowering
  • differentiated
  • collaboration
  • certain set boundaries
    • but give them enough time
  • process and content
  • outside mentor
  • memorable
  • learn and retain
    • application of knowledge
  • ability to revisit 
    • work in progress
  • room for reflection
  • purposeful
  • community involvement
  • authentic
  • relevant
  • self evident
    • no need to ask “why am I doing this?”
  • depth over breadth
For examples of projects at SLA, check out SLA’s project showcase.
SLA teachers try to embed SLA’s core values in each project:
Inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, process
and these projects are assessed using the SLA standard rubric, which contains the following categories:
Design, application, knowledge, presentation, process.
The Stages of the PBCL Cycle
Course/Business Matching
One of the distinguishing features of the PBCL approach is its use of a real-time,
real-world business situation as the context for learning. The PBCL Cycle begins with
the establishment of the link between the curriculum and the local business partner
providing the problematic situation.
In this stage, the instructor and business partner:
• Evaluate if and where course concepts and skills are visible in the
business partner’s workplace
• Identify and analyze authentic contexts in which these concepts and
skills are relevant to addressing problematic situations currently affecting
the business partner
• Determine where in the curriculum the problematic situations should
form the context for learning
Once the problematic situation has been selected and positioned within the
course, the business partner and instructor work together to:
• Determine student deliverables that will be used to provide evidence of
• Define criteria and methods that will be used to assess and evaluate the
students’ performance
• Develop a plan for effective collaboration that will establish clear roles
and responsibilities for the instructor and business partner
• Identify necessary support and tools for completing the project
Note that the task of actually defining the problem, however, is left for the student teams
in the next steps of the Learning Cycle.
✔ ✗ ✔
Feedback & Evaluation
Course/Business Matching Framing
Test Points
Evidence of
Field Insights
The Situation
The students are introduced to the problematic situation and the PBCL Cycle
process as the instructor, possibly together with the business partner:
• Presents the problematic situation in context using multiple perspectives,
a variety of media, and the minimum amount of information necessary
to form a foundation of understanding
• Reviews the PBCL process and the PBCL Cycle through which the
students, instructor, and business partner will work together
• Invites the students to initiate their role as active, responsible learners by
encouraging them to ask questions and to extend their thinking about
the problematic situation
Problem Analysis
Each team of students must form a hypothesis to uncover the problem behind the
situation. This stage of the PBCL Cycle is structured so that the teams of students:
• Use a variety of tools and questioning techniques to identify and
evaluate facts, assumptions, questions to ask, and resources needed to
research options
• Negotiate priorities, decision-making criteria, and the formation of
• Explore and begin building skills in collaborative teamwork and
reflective learning
Field Insights
Now that each team of students has identified a problem to address, their goal in
this stage is to achieve a deep understanding of this problem. To accomplish this,
• Review primary source documents, internet sites and search results, and
content-related periodicals and books
• Conduct interviews of business partners and relevant industry experts via
on-site visits or conference calls
• Use a variety of tools and techniques to organize information, share
insights, and integrate the analysis of data from multiple sources
Resource Development
As in the business world, research has to stop at some point. This stage of the PBCL
Cycle is structured so that each team of students completes its research when the
team has enough information to begin proposing solutions. The students:
• Identify gaps and make plans to address missing information or
• Execute any revisions needed to ensure that the team’s information is
accurate and relevant
• Form hypotheses about solutions to the problematic situation
Test Points
It’s time to make decisions and prepare to back them up. In this stage each team of
• Performs a final check—their last chance before deciding what
solution(s) to propose—of the significance and validity of information
and information sources
• Decides what solution(s) they will propose
• Reviews and evaluates the process by which they reached their
• Develops strategies for selecting, consolidating and presenting
information to support the team’s proposed solution(s)
• Creates the presentation, relevant media and support materials
• Considers how the approach to identifying a problem and developing
solution(s) demonstrates the significance of course-related concepts
and skills
Evidence of Learning
With business partner, instructor, and fellow students as their audience, each student
• Presents the problem they’ve identified and the related solution(s)
• Explains the reasoning behind their identified problem and solution(s)
• Encourages audience inquiry and invites feedback
Feedback & Evaluation
The instructor facilitates a discussion during which all the participants—instructor,
business partner, and students—can:
• Determine if revisions are necessary to each team’s problem description
and proposed solution(s)
• Evaluate individual and team performance
• Reflect on the learning achieved by students, instructors, and business
partners and on the PBCL process
• Celebrate the students’ success
Instructors and business partners also take the opportunity to:
• Evaluate which, if any, of the proposed solutions might be implemented
by the business partner to address the problematic situation
• Determine how the instructor and students might be involved in the
solution’s implementation
• Recommend changes to course content and instructional approaches
• Plan their ongoing partnership and prepare for the selection of future
problematic situations
• Reflect on the value contributed by and distributed among the
students, instructor, and business partner
©2009 Nashville State Technical Community College and WGBH Educational Foundation.
All Rights Reserved.
Core Strategy: Project-Based Learning

Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?

Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying.

VIDEO: An Introduction to Project-Based Learning (3-minute video)

VIDEO: Project-Based Learning: An Overview (9-minute video)

Who Says You Can’t Replicate Another School’s Success?

In this package, we show you how a rural school district in northwest Georgia transformed the way its students learn, using the inspiration and mentorship provided by San Diego’s acclaimed High Tech High.

By Grace Rubenstein

Oftentimes in education, the most inspiring models of excellence can seem the most difficult to emulate. The more innovative a school and outstanding its results, the more impossible replicating it looks to educators elsewhere who are struggling with challenging student populations, limited resources, and unimaginative administrations.

Featured Strategy

Replicating Project-Based Learning in Rural Georgia

Whitfield County Schools, Dalton, Georgia

Target Audience
Grades 6-12

To transfer the best practices of an acclaimed project-based learning school to a traditional school

North Whitfield Middle School enrollment: 810

Whitfield Career Academy enrollment: 575

North Whitfield Middle School certified teachers: 104

Whitfield Career Academy certified teachers: 35

Student Population:
66.23 % qualify for free or reduced-price lunch;
36.7% are Hispanic;
2.1% are black;
3.9% other race/ethnicity

Average state expenditure per pupil: $8,761

Average Whitfield County expenditure per pupil: $7,887

State graduation rate: 80.8%

Whitfield Career Academy graduation rate: 81.4%

There is a hardly a truer example of this than High Tech High, which Edutopia covered in-depth in 2008. The original textbook-free, nonprofit, public charter school — housed in a beautifully converted U.S. Navy training center in San Diego — is architecturally grand and educationally mold-breaking. Bolstered by a teaching culture that promotes constant collaboration and self-improvement, students there engage in rigorous projects with real-world impact, from building a fish pen to protect local white sea bass from avian predators to creating educational DVDs to benefit the local blood bank. Nearly 40 percent of the students come from low-income families, yet 99 percent of graduates go on to college.

You can almost hear the chorus of dedicated educators saying, “That’s nice for them, but I couldn’t possibly do that given the constraints at my school.”

This installment of Edutopia’s Schools That Work is here to say, “Yes, you can.”

Around the country, dozens of schools and districts are making dramatic changes based on High Tech High’s practices and are doing so at workaday, non-charter schools with major hurdles to overcome — far less-glamorous settings than High Tech High.

Teachers and administrators from these schools begin by visiting High Tech High for one of its three-day residencies, which the school offers three times a year. Then, once back home, they benefit from High Tech High’s continued mentoring by phone, email, and Skype or even by having the San Diego-based trainers visit their schools. Teachers can also access the wealth of free materials available on the charter school’s website.

The nonprofit school charges about $600 per person for its residencies (participants cover their own lodging and transportation), just enough to cover its expenses. The mission is to share best practices and learn from others.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Educators undergoing this transformation don’t expect their schools to emerge from it looking exactly like High Tech High. Every school has its own unique teachers, students, culture, history, and setting, and its path to change must uniquely match those. Yet the core design principles that shaped High Tech High — such as personalization, adult-world connections, a common intellectual mission, and teachers as designers — apply anywhere, and these are what guide the schools’ replication efforts.

“Those design principles are something that can be replicated even if you’re in a traditional school,” says Eric White, a teacher at Whitfield Career Academy, in Dalton, Georgia, where they are in their second year of shifting to High Tech High-style project-based learning. “You can give kids work that gives them choices. You can have high expectations for all your students. You can involve presentations and critiques and involve students in work that real adults do. There are no barriers to that, only perceived barriers.”

The work of replication is hard and messy, with steps forward and back. It requires educators — many of whom are accustomed to working in isolation — to band together, leave their comfort zones, and learn from one another’s mistakes and triumphs.

“I’ve never been so exhausted and yet so excited at the same time,” says White’s colleague, English teacher Lisa Barber. “I absolutely love what we do, and it makes me want to work harder at it.”

In this coverage, you’ll meet teachers and principals from Eric White and Lisa Barber’s school and from North Whitfield Middle School, two schools that are at different stages in their transitions to project-based learning. You’ll also find best practices, advice, and lessons they’ve learned through their efforts.

Whitfield County Schools, Dalton, Georgia

The Whitfield County Schools serve more than 13,000 students in a rural area in northwest Georgia where the primary industry is carpet making and 66 percent of pupils qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. In 2008, district leaders were looking for ways to modernize instruction and more keenly engage students when Whitfield Career Academy’s 47-year-old principal, Phillip Brown (who’s now principal at Coahulla Creek High School, which will open in August 2011), introduced them to High Tech High.

Brown took two groups of three teachers to training sessions at High Tech High. Struck by the San Diego students’ genuine engagement in their projects and eloquence in describing their own learning, the teachers came back to Georgia and presented what they’d learned to colleagues across the district. With that, the county’s five middle schools also decided to jump on board. Combining internal funds and outside grants, the interested schools cobbled together about $50,000 and sent 45 of their staff members to High Tech High.

The transformation to project-based learning formally began in fall 2009 in just grades 6 and 9. The principals set aside collaborative-planning time for teachers and gave them flexibility to shift their daily class schedules as needed to accommodate complex projects. Teachers started working together to design projects that blended multiple disciplines and allowed room for students to apply their individual interests and talents. Trainers from High Tech High and the Louisville, Kentucky-based Schlechty Center — a nonprofit devoted to building student engagement in classrooms — visited several times to coach them. The next fall, the seventh- and tenth-grade teachers joined the effort.

Today, daily life for the teachers and students involved has dramatically changed. Students still take some tests, but more often they participate in multidisciplinary projects ranging from writing and producing a scientifically based murder-mystery play to enacting a Japanese tea ceremony to building an outdoor classroom. The first time the Career Academy held a Presentation of Learning Night — a student-led showcase of projects (a concept from High Tech High) — a record-breaking 460 people attended. When the five middle schools held a joint Presentation of Learning event, an estimated 3,000 people came.

Teachers readily admit that they still have much room to improve; they need to weave state standards into projects, for instance, and win the hearts and minds of teachers in grades 8, 11, and 12 who have yet to make the change.

Yet teachers and students alike say they wouldn’t go back to the lecture/textbook style of old. “School used to be work sheets and a lot of tests,” says Liliann, a sophomore at the Career Academy. “Now, it’s more like you learn something and then you have to produce something meaningful from it. It’s actually more engaging, and it makes you want to learn.”

The bold educators from Whitfield County have been generous enough to share their still-developing experiences with us — the successes, slipups, and plans for the future. Dive in and see what could be possible at your school.  Edutopia’s Big List About PBLearning

“Passion for Learning: How a Project-Based System Meets the Needs of High School Students in the 21st Century “
By Ronald J. Newell. Available from the publisher, Rowman Education or from

Passion for Learning: How Project-Based Learning Meets the Needs of 21st Century Students explains the theory and practice behind making a project-based system work. Educators, parents, and students who feel oppressed by the current school system or are unsatisfied with their situation; people who are in danger of losing a school to consolidation; and those involved in small school movements in urban areas will want to read this book. To purchase click here.