Monday, 10 November 2014

Project-Based Learning - Titanic

In the early days of our homeschooling journey I came across Lori Pickerts book Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners. It inspired and encouraged the interest-led learning approach we take with our children's education.
"In project-based homeschooling, you zero in on what interests your child and stay there as along as she is interested. She's not on her own; you're there with materials, support, feedback, help your child acquire the skills to think, learn, make and do." - Lori Pickert

In many ways we implement project-based learning at home through interest led learning. However, I have often found myself stepping in too soon and somewhat "taking over" my children's interest. As a result my children loose interest quickly and no longer want to pursue that topic. What was I doing wrong?
"The ownership of the ideas, the control over decision-making...the roles are important; the children must direct their own learning, and the adults must steadfastly support that." - Lori Pickert

My son had been interested in the Titanic for awhile but I was heading into unfamiliar territory as I wasn't sure how to support an interest without building activities around his idea. He had been reading one of our books on the Titanic so I asked him what about the Titanic did he wanted to know. He started telling me all the things he wanted to know so I suggested that he write it down his questions so he (and I) wouldn't forget them. He happily wrote down his questions.

Once he had recorded his questions, my son set about searching for documentaries about the Titanic. He watched Building the Titanic Documentary, Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved Documentary and Titanic:Untold Stories - History Documentary.

The following day, we went to the library and my son asked our librarian if they had any books on the Titanic that he could borrow. It was wonderful to watch him seek out information from others on his own. 

My son spend sometime reading through the library books before googling information on how to build his own Titanic out of Lego. He came across the LEGO Digital Designer but wanted something that he could make with his hands. Instead, he found a 3D Titanic Model Puzzle and purchased it.

When the puzzle arrived, my son spent the next few days putting it together. This involved a few  moments of frustration and tears but this is all a part of learning so I made sure I didn't step in to "solve" the problem for him.
"Expect mistakes and problems - they're a normal part of working and learning. Model resilience. Show a clam confidence that your child will find a way. Encourage him to step back and think about his options; if necessary, brainstorm with him. Give him the time and support to solve his own problems." - Lori Pickert

It has been a number of weeks now since my son completed his titanic puzzle and returned his library books. His interested has drifted into other topics but just this last week, my son found Ellen Emerson White's book, Titanic: An Edwardian Girl's Diary,1912 (My Story) which we have started reading as a read-aloud. Like all my son's interest-led learning, I am sure that this won't be the end of his learning about the Titanic as his investigation and interest will only deepen with time.

One of the most important things I learnt during this project was that I need to be more patient. Too often I rush in, make suggestions and hurry the project along and this is not helpful or wanted. By taking a step back, I was able to see how much my son already knew about how to learn and how independent he is as a learner.

If you are interested in more information, you can visit my Project-Based Learning pinterest board.

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This blog post has been linked up with:
 Thoughtful Spot Weekly bloghop 
Hip Homeschool Hop
Learn and Laugh Link Up 


  1. I was delighted to see this post...I used this project myself (a reminder of home schooling years with my daughter) with a boy in secondary school who came to our informal education sessions at our centre. Once a week he came to us and was able to choose from games, music, cooking, art and other activities and once a week I went to him in school and we built the Titanic. We both learned so much from the experience. Thanks for the trip down memory lane :-)

  2. Wow! Impressive! Thanks for sharing this at the #LaughLearnLinkup

  3. This is quite impressive! This would be an interesting way to study the Titanic!

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

  4. Thanks for linking up with us on the Hip Homeschool Hop! I enjoyed your article! I love anything related to the Titanic, so I especially love these ideas. :)

  5. Thank you for your post, I got a lot of ideas from it. I would love to do this way in our homeschool but I can't imagine it out practically for us. Can you help?
    I asked my 2 boys today what they were interested in and they each gave their answers. they began researching, one on youtivbe and the other in a kid's search engine. It went ok, but my 10 year old came across not useable websites and perhaps a lack of info on this topic, so he just switched over to youtube and looked at the same topic his 8 year old bro was looking at.
    Then I wanted them to do something with what they had gleaned in that time, less than an hour, so they made quick notebook pages about what they found so far. I really wanted this to be the start of some sort of project-based learning for them, but i don't know how they can take it further. (It was also the fact that the neighbour boys were out to play and they wanted out too).

    my questions are- how long can you sit with your child looking at websites with them, seeing what it suitable, reading and summarising info for them....while the other kids also need you to help them research with them, all while making sure that youtube is not showing anything unsavoury.... there are other things that need a mother's attention!

    I saw your son researching the Titanic was a similar age to my son. How did all that research happen, even if your son might happen to be a good reader? Mine happens to be, but the websites he found today (on boardgames design) was just tooooooo much print on the screen for him to be able to manage.

    ok, thanks for your website, I am glad I have discovered it.