The Cells 'R Us project based learning experience is broken up into two units -- Cells and Organelles and Cell Processes. Instead of teaching all the content and then expecting the students to use it in their projects, I teach the content as the students progress through the project in an attempt to achieve "just-in-time" teaching. This allows me to chunk the lessons in a way that makes sense to the big project without overwhelming the students with information.
The complete sequence of lessons I use is:
In between that sequence, I provide work days so the students can integrate what they have learned into their final project.
The specific lessons that cover the development of the project are:
Building on the work students created on Workday 1 and the concepts learned during the Photosynthesis and Cell Respiration WISE activities, they add their ideas on how they will show photosynthesis and cell respiration to their work plans (Adding Photosynthesis). While adding the photosynthesis and cell respiration ideas to the project, students explore the idea that within a natural system, the transfer of energy drives the cycling of matter (CCC Energy and Matter) as well as the concept regarding "the transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a natural system" (CCC Energy and Matter).
The actual write-up is done on a document they create. I tell them to just add the basic idea to their plan so that they know where they are going. This is what the students had to say about these project work days:
As you see in the video, project work days are about the students taking ownership and problem solving. The mantra for me during these project work days is "Empower by giving up the Power".
I am still present to help students set goals, debrief said goals and set next steps. In informal conversations, we talk about individual and group accountability and revisit the guiding question, "How can I create an analogy for the cell and use it illustrate different cell processes?", to ensure that the students do not stray off track.