Project Approach

The Project Approach provides a framework for guiding children through in-depth studies of real world topics.

The Project Approach refers to a set of teaching strategies which enable teachers to guide children through in-depth studies of real world topics.

A project is defined as an in-depth investigation of a real world topic worthy of children’s attention and effort. The Project Approach is a clearly structured, three-phase scientific exploration of a topic of interest.  There is a complex but flexible framework with features that characterize the teaching-learning interaction.  When teachers implement The Project Approach successfully, children are highly motivated, feel actively involved in their own learning, and produce work of a high quality.

Project work offers children opportunities to do first hand research in science and social studies and to represent their findings in a variety of ways.  Children also have many occasions in the course of their project work to apply basic math and literacy skills and knowledge.  The description of a project can be like a good story with a beginning, middle, and an end.  Teachers and children can tell the story with reference to these three phases in the life of the project.


It is being increasingly recognized that children have a much wider range of capabilities than they have usually been permitted to show in the regular classroom.  In order to show these capabilities, they need learning environments which are responsive to the many individual differences which influence learning.  Some children, for example, have a special interest in, and early mastery of, symbol systems.  Others understand best through much and varied hands-on manipulative experience.  Children learn in different ways, have different styles, and build on very different backgrounds of experience.  Children also achieve at a higher level in school if they are interested in what they are doing and interests can vary considerably within an average class group. 

Research and development in education has recently led to instructional innovations designed to make the classroom into a learning environment which is more responsive to the varying learning needs and interests of individual children.  For example, there is increasing curriculum integration:  continuity between the children’s learning in the different subjects.  There is more opportunity to relate home and school learning.  There is concern for memorable learning as well as memorized learning.  Children are expected to work cooperatively on complex and open-ended tasks as well as follow instructions in step by step learning.  The Project Approach provides one way to introduce a wider range of learning opportunities into the classroom.

For more information see http://www.projectapproach.org

The Emerson School

We are a welcoming, inclusive learning community committed to equity for all students. In addition to comprehensive literacy and mathematics instruction, students are actively engaged through project-based learning using the outside community as an extension of the classroom. Learn more about us.

The Emerson School
105 Northwest Park Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
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