True PBL requires your project connects with something outside your school. However, it is not always possible to set up something huge. Here are some "real life projects" that can be done right in your building or district. It is a great step to getting started, finding out what works in your project plan, and getting comfortable as you make that change to PBL in your classroom.

Remember the following as you work on your project development:
  • What standards will be addressed by doing this?
  • What 21st century skills can be incorporated into this - technology, collaboration, problem solving, creativity, good research, critical thinking?
  • Are you creating something for the "greater good"?
  • How will you assess this?
  • Are students learning to work with those outside the classroom environment?
Ideas:
  • Have your students create something for a younger grade level. This could be a lesson, booklet, presentation, games, etc. It is great if they can go to the classroom to participate, but if they cannot, try Skyping.
  • Use your cafeteria personnel. They would be great for lessons on nutrition (good or bad) but lots of math activities can be generated from there as well. It is amazing how much math is used in that area.
  • Get with the transportation department to take a look at bus routes. Ask questions - get answers! How many miles are logged a day, how much gas used, or are any roads more dangerous than others. Once this information is found, do something with it. Write articles, get more kids to ride the bus to school, etc.
  • Surveys. With Google forms, it is easy to take surveys of all types, which generate real data for the students to work with. This is not just for math classes either!
  • Have students write letters or send emails that actually get sent. These could be to your legislators, business people, etc. This is not just for English class!
  • Have the custodial personnel work with students on the math and or science that they use. A chemistry project was to have students create a cleaner for the school desks - the judge was the custodian.
  • Build something the school can use. Paint games on the playground, create a butterfly garden, etc.
  • Investigate the areas of your school that are not as "green" as they should be. Have students come up with a solution to the problem. A third grade classes found out the cafeteria was not recycling as they should, got the bins needed and the rest is history.
  • When doing collaborative projects, see if you can join up with a local college or some experts in the field who will not just help students but actually contribute with them.
  • Look around for online video contests. There are tons of them and when students know their work is going to be submitted for competition they tend to do a better job.
  • Help a local charity. Students can always do a fund raising project, which is a good thing. But they can also create logos, brochures, flyers, etc. Research is needed to do that. You could have them submit their work to the organization, which just might use it.
  • Have your students do something for senior citizens. They can go visit a local center to teach them computers skills, help them with taxes, or do oral history projects with them.
  • Students can create various information items or conduct campaigns for other students in the building. Have your students make sure all others have library cards and know how to access the Power Library from home or make sure all 18-year olds are registered to vote. How about that "get kids to ride the bus to school" idea above!
  • Do something to bring current events to those students not currently taking those classes. Maybe a morning announcement about some breaking news item, a daily newsletter or web page update. Bring the current events home - in their words!
  • Have students bring in historical documents their family members might have. Perhaps they have old newspaper clippings from famous events or letters written from family members who were in a war. Maybe they have pictures of what certain areas of your town used to look like.Digitize these and put them online.
  • Do a history of your school.
  • Publish, publish, publish. No matter what they do, make it public. Student can create blogs, wikispaces, or actually publish their work in hard copy. Research shows that student writing improves the more they do it (duh!) but it does not always have to be a formal, huge writing piece.