"We are living a public life on a global stage, the ones who can express themselves best, will be heard." -Laura Hill Timpanaro, Artist, Author, Educator

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Project Based LIFE, Saving The Sea

by Laura Hill

At my house we use PBL every day, in fact sometimes our life is like one big project based learning lesson.  Recently, my daughters and I mapped out a maritime ecosystem highlighting the effects of pollution on the organisms that live in the water and along it's fringe. We then created a chart of pollution fighting solutions, many based in recycling and a list of organizations we were part of, the Ocean Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation and BNL, that would be interested in our project. Finally we brainstormed ways to get our message into the world.  The most intriguing aspect of what we were doing was that it had nothing to do with a class assignment, we were writing our next book.

For us Project Based Learning has a very special meaning because it echoes problem-solving strategies we use in our Great Story World Mix-Up books. This entails deciding which stories to mix-up, creating a global theme then coming up with sub plots that are relevant to children today. For instance, two of our books, Amelia Earhart in the Land of the Lost and Sherlock Holmes and the Minotaur's Maze, address bullying as a subplot.  Both transport readers to an ancient time in which a big problem is occurring, in one global weather changes, the other social prejudice.

What is interesting is how we mix PBL with our writing strategies. We start by developing characters and setting, creating sweeping illustrations of various aspects of each story. We naturally follow the PBL structure critically thinking about how Penelope, our science girl and Jilly, our magic girl will use their talents to solve the main plot problem then determining which elements and supporting characters need to be added to help them.  We consult with experts and do research to align our ideas with fact and then get feedback, which adds a layer of interest and authenticity to our work. 

So what’s the point?

The Boy Who Cried Sea Monster Cover.
Well, in our upcoming book The Boy Who Cried Sea Monster, which is due out this summer, my daughters and I got to explore some themes that affect us very deeply.  We live in a maritime community that is over run with tourists and boaters who pollute the waterway and damage the shellfish population. We have several characters that are outcasts because they have habits that don't fit in with their community's point of view, in this case a pirate and a sea monster.  This echoes problems we have seen recently in our school community. We have characters who haven't developed their communication skills enough to be heard, a tongue twister champion who speaks in riddles and a boy who sounds the alarm at all the wrong times instead of thinking through what he is trying to say.

Now we have an opportunity to make some positive change.  We hope to enlist partners interested in spreading the word about kids who make a difference in their communities. We hope our books bring the effects of polluting our oceans, which cover two thirds of our beautiful planet to the forefront.  We hope that children who read our books will see how powerfully their words and actions can affect others. And we hope to start a Kickstarter campaign to fund a free interactive app that helps children, parents and teachers work together to find their own solutions to these problems.

Our harbor.
PBL is much more than a methodology, it’s a way of life.  It’s an opportunity to exercise critical thinking and community partnership, skills that you as a teacher can bring to your students in unique ways that are unparalleled because of the influence you have on our children.  And it’s a trust, because you spend more quality hours with my child in a day than I get too.  

My co-author daughters.
Be daring, challenge yourself and your peers to infuse classrooms with the "can do" energy of making a difference! You'll find you have a room full of engaged students bursting with ideas, drilling down into their talents and working on some really big problems that may ignite a spark that in turn could change the world.  It's your choice, but I'm relying on you to make a good one...so are my kids.

FTNT: Leonardo DiCaprio is a big supporter of saving our natural world. Help us gain support for Kids Saving The Sea by copying and tweeting the message below TY.

 2h  is a big supporter of Ocean Conservation, Ask Leo to help kids save the sea by

Laura Hill is an author and producer known for helping children find their voice and talents through creative arts and technology. To find out how you can bring her writing programs to your school email Laura Hill or tweet @candylandcaper. 


Read the books I write with my children.