A xeroxed worksheet. A diorama. A report read verbatim from the page. When you think of elementary school projects, you may imagine these “dumpster projects” of yore, labored over and then tossed. But in Los Altos School District classrooms today, project-based learning creates experiences not so easily discarded.
Scrounging balloons for an ad hoc parachute drop, Kim Nero’s Covington School first-graders built their own paper clip conveyances last week. And in Katie Farley’s STEM lab at Covington, fifth-graders became research scientists, studying the potential colonization of Mars. Their project is driven by the same questions real-world researchers take on: What kind of precautions do humans need to safely explore space? What solutions would they need to design before sending colonists to Mars?