In schools, project-based learning has become a catalyst for a change in STEM education recently. The main idea revolves around learning about science while completing a hands-on project (for example, the slope rescue lesson by The Bold Inventors Studio), resulting in a more effective way of introducing new concepts to students—and not without reason. Since students have been lectured on scientific topics for years through textbooks and worksheets, they are more excited to learn about science and engineering through projects and experiments that stimulate their creative-thinking process more effectively. My own experiences with project-based learning exemplify the impact and importance of it on education.
This year, I am a senior in high school, meaning this is my last year before college. Many seniors tend to take courses like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc, but this year, I am taking a course called Advanced Scientific Investigations. The course revolves around committing to a year-long project on any topic: computer science, biology, chemistry, quantum mechanics, anything goes. So far, our class has worked relatively independently on our respective projects, and the experience has been refreshing and valuable. Not only do students get to have the freedom to explore their scientific interests and culminate them into a project, they really have to dig into their creative side and come up with new ideas every day. Students also have the opportunity to work with professionals in their fields and enter the Synopsys Science Fair at the end of the year. Some students have even won the state competition for the science fair and won awards for their work in the class. But most importantly, they get to learn about a topic they love with hands-on experiences. They learn about how to target a certain goal, set themselves up for different milestones along the way, organize their work, plan out experimental procedures, and complete a project.
Even in classes not explicitly based on a project, conducting small projects throughout the different units gives students a good idea about how to exemplify what they are learning. Understanding calorimetry becomes much more straightforward when students get to actually do an experiment with a calorimeter and watch chemical reactions occur in chemistry. Project-based learning excites students, while also demonstrating the knowledge they need to know without feeding it through a textbook to them. It is crucial right now that students receive hands-on experience with the topics they are learning about to inspire them to be curious in the future and consistently embrace their creativity. Project-based learning is the new wave of STEM education and will influence a new generation of scientists to advance the field of sciences and technology forward.