My formal training in PBL is was through Buck Institute's Gold Standard PBL 101 workshop. My plan is to use the next series of posts to take you through the essential project design elements for my first PBL project in my general chemistry classes. Feel free to comment with suggestions.
The first step of this PBL project was the challenging problem or question, for my students the guiding question was:
How can we sold the problem of plastics in the ocean/freshwater.
Typically for Gold Standard PBL, the question needs to be a problem to solve or a question to answer.
Our entry event into this project was having my students watch two videos:
1. Midway, a Plastic island
2. Beads of destruction
Both of these videos are very powerful and created a great hook for kids that led them into the driving question. From the driving question, in groups students brainstormed need to know questions about plastics.
Underlying all of this was some of the basic chemistry of plastics including arrangement of elements on the periodic table and how that arrangement leads to different types of bonds and bonding which can be used in material science (NGSS, HS-PS1-2).
For authenticity, even though Atwater, Ca is roughly 100 miles from the ocean, within 5 miles of our school is the Merced River. The Merced is a river that tumbles out of the high Sierras, runs through Yosemite national park, and drops into the central valley where it ultimately joins the San Joaquin river. The San Joaquin flows into San Francisco bay and then the Pacific Ocean. Many of my students have been to the river, either fishing or just floating down the river on innertubes. The river feeds Lake Yosemite in nearby Merced, which again, many of my students have spent afternoons swimming or fishing or just having a family barbeque on the grassy banks. With this, students can identify with the the effects of plastic pollution on wildlife and began to see how microplastics could possibly harm them.