A List of Simple and Inexpensive PBL Activities for Getting Started

by | Dec 24, 2017

Project-based learning activities can be daunting for a teacher new to the concepts. If you are new, here are some key issues to know about real project-based learning. First, project based learning begins with an inquiry into a real-world problem. Next, learning often takes place in collaborative groups, where students build a sense of community. Finally, research into the authentic problem involves going beyond the textbook with interviews, web searches, and inviting guest speakers to class. Keeping in mind these criteria, can we come up with some great and inexpensive PBL activities?


Some Simple Starters

Bob Lenz gives us leeway to redefine PBL to get the idea for starters. One can touch the concept of budget PBL through simple changes to the way we do things daily. Below are some of the ideas presented in his Edutopia article:

  1. Ask a driving question. Rather than asking a “yes or no” question, ask a very open-ended question that sparks critical thinking. “What structures make the strongest bridges?” would be a great driving question that can spark impromptu debate and discussion, and a project can grow from this.
  2. Write an essay guided by a rubric. Use this rubric link to guide students in collaborating on a textual analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird, for example.
  3. Conduct an interview. Talk with an adult who was alive during an historical event. This is the type of project that can grow into having to use tech tools to find people to interview, learning how to communicate and use resources to secure the interview, and using different media to record the interview.

Coming closer to the mark is this example from Buck Institute and the success story of a first year teacher’s maiden voyage into PBL. The Buck Institute also has a growing collection of PBL projects submitted by teachers.


More Ideas to Explore

From Reading.org come these great ideas for inexpensive PBL activities for elementary students:

  • fourth-graders cruising the playground interviewing students about their after school snacks for the posters they will make to promote healthy nibbling
  • second-graders learning about chickens and reading books to raise funds to provide chickens for families in third-world countries
  • fifth-graders working in teams to write letters to the city council to promote better citywide recycling
  • kindergartners baking and wrapping healthy dog treats for an animal shelter as they learn about taking care of animals

Your Best Friend in the Classroom

You’ve got big plans for your students, and you need the right tool to make them happen. Your smart, simple, and stupendous ideas for project-based learning activities on a budget can be realized with our own Solution Fluency Activity Planner. Share your ideas with a global community of educators, or select your favourite lessons from the thousands of awesome unit plans posted. You can sign up for early access to the planner here.

Tips and Takeaways

Finally, tips from the experts:

  • Don’t go overboard for your first project.
  • Plan well, but be flexible.
  • PBL is made relevant and meaningful when involving the local or global community.
  • Always have time to reflect on the process.

Additional Reading



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