Project Spotlights

Each PBL Fellow documented an issues-based PBL unit throughout their fellowship year. The projects spotlighted below are windows into our work. We’ve given ourselves permission to dispose of carefully crafted, laminated lessons and share with you our works-in-progress as we continually struggle to improve rigor, relevance, and student engagement. We hope you find something here to help you bring these ideas into your classroom!

 Shannon THE RIPPLE EFFECT
Shannon Russell Hardy, Mentor, The Exploris School, Charter, Wake County
8th Grade Science, Social Studies, ELA
4 weeks, approximately 45 minutes per day, 4 days per week
Driving Question: How we can secure the right to safe, clean, accessible, and affordable water for all humans?
Summary: Exploris 8th graders investigated how our democratic ideals have impacted local, NC, and federal water policy.  They dug deep on issues including stormwater runoff, urban wetlands, the deregulation of Falls Lake, and the impact of flooding from Hurricane Matthew.  Students used the process created by Design for Change to explore how scarcity and the unequal distribution of water impact us. They sought to answer the question, “How can we secure the right to safe, clean, accessible, and affordable water for all humans?” They carefully documented research, transcribed content, and filmed video. Through interactions with industry leaders, politicians, and environmentalists, students analyzed the monetary, environmental, and social cost of water. They imagined possible futures, developed solutions, and executed a change of their own design.
Links: Project Design , Expedition Overview, and Student Videos
 Lauren WE ‘RIVERLY’ NEED THEM!
Lauren Boop, Fellow, Hilburn Academy, Wake County
6th Grade Social Studies
2 weeks, approximately 90 minutes per day, 5 days per week, 10 class periods
Driving Question: How can we, as historians and scientists/potamologists, create exhibits that showcase the detrimental effects of life without rivers and/or clean rivers?
Summary: Hilburn Sixth Grade Social Studies students will do a comparative analysis case study between Ancient Civilizations and North Carolina today on the reliance on rivers to support a society. Through hands-on inquiry, design models, public service announcements and investigations, students will make connections about what life would be like without rivers in both ancient societies and today’s world through a pop-up museum display. Through their analysis, students will determine what next steps need to be taken to help protect NC rivers and why these next steps are necessary for a thriving community.
Link: Project Design
 Jennifer SPECIAL CONCERN SPECIES INVESTIGATION
Jennifer Browndorf, Fellow, Hilburn Academy, Wake County
6th Grade Science & 6th-8th Grade Animal Science
4 weeks, approximately 90 minutes every other day, 2-3 days per week
Driving Question: How can we, as environmental citizens, create a product  to educate our community about issues and solutions to improve the status of wildlife listed as NC species of special concern?
Summary: “In nature, nothing exists alone.” ~Rachel Carson
Hilburn 6th-8th graders investigated how wildlife resource management decisions have impacted local animal species.  They dug deep on issues of wildlife policy in NC, on urban & suburban fragmentation, on status of species of special concern in our local natural communities, and on the impact of the Wildlife Action Plan for NC.  Students used the processes of PBL to explore how threats to natural communities  impact animals. They sought to answer the question, “How can we, as environmental citizens, create a product  to educate our community about issues and solutions to improve the status of wildlife listed as NC species of special concern?” They carefully documented research, designed augmented reality auras, transcribed content, and created artifacts. Through interactions with the Wildlife Action Plan, NC Wildlife Resource Commission, and Piedmont Wildlife Center, students analyzed the environmental impact of human decisions. They became hopeful for better futures, advocated for solutions, and educated the community through their own museum product design.
Link: Project Design
  HOW HEALTHY IS OUR WATERSHED?
Meg Millard, Fellow, Central Park School for Children, Durham County
4th Grade Science, Social Studies, ELA
8 weeks, 3-5 times a week for 1 hour, additional field work and guest speakers
Driving Question: How can we, as 4th graders, convince our friends and families to reduce their environmental impact on our watershed?
Summary: Central Park 4th graders will explore and learn about the watershed in which we live. They will have first hand experiences  along the streams and rivers of the Neuse River watershed. These experiences will include Ellerbe Creek,  a 2 day trip to the Eno River, paddle canoes around Falls Lake, and explore the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park (where they will release shad fry).  Students will have opportunities to talk with biologists, both at school and at their places of work, to learn more about our watershed and some of the threats to the water and wildlife.  Organizations such as the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, The Eno River Association, and the Ellerbe Creek Association, as well as state parks within the watershed will be utilized for expert assistance, advice, information and for field work.  Additionally, we will raise American Shad and learn about their life cycle and historical population changes, and how changes to the watershed have affected this species.   Environmental impacts affecting the Neuse River watershed will be explored and considered as we investigate the historical changes to shad populations.  Students will consider ways they can help shad (and other wildlife) and how they might influence others to help protect and preserve our watershed and wildlife in our area. We will explore ways that human impacts on the watershed can be reduced. Students will then work in small groups to design ways to encourage their friends and families to work at reducing their impact on our watershed  (some of which could include leaving a buffer between tilled areas and streams, using biodegradable soaps, volunteering with local organizations such as the Ellerbe Creek Association to help with clean ups, not using herbicides and pesticides around their yards, planting native plants,…)
Link: Project Design
 Kathy WATER WISE
Kathy Wall, Fellow, Ballentine Elementary , Wake County
4th Grade Science, Social Studies, ELA
8 weeks, 3-5 times a week for 1 hour, additional field work and guest speakers
Driving Question: How can we, as 4th graders, convince our friends, families, and the community of Fuquay-Varina to reduce their environmental impact on water?
Summary: Ballentine 4th graders will explore and learn where their water comes from and discover that it is a limited resource. They will learn that our population is increasing, and as our population increases the need for clean water will increase. Students will learn that community members need to preserve and conserve the water in our water supply. Learners will have first-hand experiences from volunteers from the Climate Reality Project, The Center for Human and Earth Restoration, and the City of Fuquay’s Public Works Director. These experiences will include taking information from the Climate Reality Project and making solar fans, solar ovens and a solar car. Students completed research on how climate change is effecting wildlife and weather. Students will also have an opportunity to make biospheres in jars and observe and create investigations on the organisms in the biosphere. Students will test how every day products we put in the water effects the water quality. Soaps, toothpaste and detergents will contaminate the water leading students to be conscientious of what we put in our water. Students also had an opportunity to interview and learn from the Public Works Director of Fuquay-Varina. Students learned that Fuquay-Varina purchases water from the City of Raleigh and Harnett County. They learned that the school and students living in the city purchase water collected from the Neuse River Basin and the Cape Fear River Basin. They learned water has to be treated and distributed to their homes. Students made models of the distribution and learned how our water quality has changed over time. The students learned that water has to be treated with chemicals so it is drinkable. This raised a lot concerns. During this time Chapel Hill had a water crisis and our town was changing the process of how our water was treated so there was a noticeable smell in the water. The Public Works Director emphasized that one of the best ways students could help the distribution of water was to not pollute the water and reduce the amount of water that we use. Students considered ways in which they could reduce the amount of water they use, and save money. Students then worked in small groups to design ways to encourage friends, family, and the community to reduce the amount of water we use and preserve our water resources. Together students are coming up slogans and advertisements to encourage citizens to use less plastics by using reusable water bottles and straws, reducing the amount of water used by either efficient toilets or getting water displacement objects in the back of toilets, and by taking shorter showers and turning off the water when brushing our teeth. Collectively we are making Fuquay-Varina Conservation Baskets with stickers, shower timers, reusable straws, and toilet tanks. Students will possibly present their presentation and gift baskets to other students in our school, a local service club, and representatives from the town of Fuquay. Possible slogans for the gift baskets are welcome to Fuquay-Varina, “a community that uses a dash less water and makes a dash less trash.”
Link: Project Design, Elementary School Science Students Tackle Conservation
 Rose KEEP SOIL WHERE IT BELONGS!
Rose Syroid, Fellow, Horton Middle School, Chatham County
6th Grade Science
3 weeks, approximately 45 minutes per day, 5 days per week
Driving Question: How can we as 6th graders decrease the amount of sediments that negatively affect our drinking water supply and beautify our campus at the same time?
Summary: Students create water gardens and reroute water from impermeable surfaces into rain barrels. Students learn the consequences of erosion, deposition and how to  be stewards of clean water.  Students work in teams to research and develop sustainable improved run-off solutions on campus. The end result is keeping sedimentation out of storm drains and ultimately drinking water. Also, Students work to beautify the campus as well as correct erosion issues that are compromising a walkway.
Link: Project Design