Making Curriculum Meaningful Through Problems, Projects, and Simulations


  • The strongest connections in the brain are made through concrete experiences with strong sensory input. These are real-life experiences like field trips and experiments like a trip to the zoo.
  • The second level of learning is using symbols or representations of real objects.
  • Sometimes, schools expose students to a representation without concrete antecedent so the child gains no knowledge.
  • After a strong neural network is formed usually by reading about complex concepts, than strong neural networks are formed by actual experiences. This means we must build any background for students that is necessary for understanding of more complex concepts. If a child has 'holes' in his background, learning is much more difficult.
    • Some suggestions---
      • Experience actual problems in schools and communities. Through struggling that students learn content and critical thinking.
        • Involve students in planning a field trip. Let them figure out the cost.
        • Figure out the opinion of different factions in the school on the same issue and compare/contrast analysis.
        • Research ways to save water/ electricity and to create a change in behaviors to save water/electricity in the school.
        • Ask a local business for a problem to try to solve.
        • Figure ways to protect local natural habitats, issues surrounding the homeless, the spread of infectious disease, how to keep teens from smoking, improve the quality of cafeteria food.
      • Projects- Students need to see the connections to curricular objectives not just to create the project. For example, making sugar-cube houses of prairie homes should teach students more than just how to make a sugar-cube house.
        • Study the way government works and write letters to express a concern.
        • Simulate an archaeological site on school grounds.
        • Interview at senior center for research on the Great Depression. This could led to a real-life project from the needs discussed such as on the problems of seniors living on a fixed income.
      • Simulations- not real events; discussion after even is most important so students understand the significance.
        • "Walk the punctuation"- pause at commas, stop for periods, shrug for question, jump for exclamation mark.
        • In science, put oil and water in a bowl and dip cotton balls to represent birds. Test substances to absorb oil.
        • Math- mark floor with x/y axis or have students stand in a line to represent integers