Bringing hands-on learning opportunities into the classroom through personalized and project-based learning makes content knowledge come alive. It also empowers students to be creative problem-solvers who take risks and are able to learn from successes and failures. Not only does this kind of learning create meaningful connections to the real world; it also builds exactly the kinds of skills that future employers are after, such as the four c's—communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

One-on-one

That’s good news. Even better is that this kind of learning is not just for children who happen to live in the right neighborhood; it is for all children, and especially needed to spark engagement and enthusiasm in classrooms that have traditionally been written off. In order to do this right, we need to place trust in the educators and students to take charge of how they learn what they need to learn, and how they apply what they learn.

"In schools around the country, teachers are using project-based learning and student interests to guide curriculum choices, engage community partnerships and connect students back to the community." 

Personalized learning lets students follow a tailor-made curriculum path that meets them where they are and evolves with their growing abilities, interests and aspirations. It’s centered on competency rather than grade level. Learning by doing is an old idea, and it’s time for it to transform how students learn today.

Put to the test

In schools around the country, teachers are using project-based learning and student interests to guide curriculum choices, engage community partnerships and connect students back to the community. Kindergarteners organize their own field trips to local museums and firehouses in Green Lake, Wisconsin. High schoolers design transit hubs for light rail stations with the help of professionals in Bellevue, Washington, or work on land restoration for a local park by growing native plants at the school site in Visalia, California.

Experiences like these have direct impact and give students a taste of being professionals. Integrating art, engineering and geometry to create innovative housing designs, like students do at Visalia Technical Early College, a vocationally-focused high school in Visalia, California, connects student learning to the real world in a more meaningful and effective way than studying for a test could. Learning to guide projects, to test theories and models—just like they would in the real world—fires up student engagement, critical thinking and creativity.

Bringing these kinds of learning experiences to the classroom are nothing short of transformative. This kind of learning opens up new doors for a culture of lifelong learning. It’s a powerful tool for learning that tells students and teachers they matter, that they have an important contribution to make and that students who own their learning own their future.