The Project Based Learning (PBL) Curriculum at WHA
Every subject in the curriculum offered at WHA stands on four broad principles, Knowledge, experience, breadth and values. These underpin every decision teachers make in order to teach effectively. The knowledge taught is based upon the National Curriculum, the children have meaningful experiences in their learning, the breadth of the curriculum is designed so no subject is left out and every subject has an integrity – and the knowledge experiences and skills lower down the school feed into the subjects and units in the upper school, ensuring progress and a wealth of knowledge for the children to draw upon as they meet new challenges and learning. We promote our values in every aspect of the curriculum and encourage collaborative work as well as individual scholarship.
We have a carefully constructed Project based learning programme that enables us to focus on one subject area a term, giving it the integrity it needs, and allows the children to respond using other areas of the curriculum creatively. Each Unit has a desired vehicle for learning, which serves as an outcome or purpose for learning. This is studied by using carefully constructed Key questions to get the children to the desired outcome- for example, in year 4 Spring 1, the children learn about rainforests with a geography focus, and demonstrate their learning by creating a diorama of a rainforest using art and DT skills. We have constructed our PBL curriculum using topic titles, and each of these titles ensure that, on the whole, each year group has a literary focus, geography focus, history focus, science focus and art and DT focus to teach, although it is not necessarily at the same time as other year groups, and where possible, elements of the other subjects are taught in order to promote joined up thinking and creativity on the part of the students. The topic titles are designed to engage and inspire our cohort as well as fulfilling the National Curriculum. The sixth term changes each year as we have a whole school PBL focus in Summer 2 each year – decided by the staff and children and designed to include aspects of the curriculum that may not have been covered (Ie printing in art or fieldwork in geography). Each unit has designated Tiered Vocabulary that the children learn and use throughout the PBL topic. The vocabulary children are exposed to sees words moving from tier 3 to tier 1 as the child moves through the school.
EYFS, KS1 and KS2 has been mapped out to ensure coverage of the Early Learning Goals and National Curriculum through the key questions teachers use to deliver the knowledge needed to answer these key questions. Our EYFS also has key topics for PBL, and where appropriate have been included in the mapping to show where children have experience related learning relevant to later on in their school journey – and these topics are used to underpin child development towards the Early Learning Goals.
All learning is pitched at age appropriate levels by mapping out aged appropriate possible outcomes using our skills documents. Each Unit has an age appropriate text to be used to teach reading as a class, and the theme links in with the unit of study. For example, in Year 5, the London Eye Mystery is studied, and this text is based in London so the PBL learning is also around London. Writing is based on mystery narratives and the experience the children work towards is a visit to London and the London eye in order to see the places studied. We find that linking the text to the PBL and writing tasks that term, there is greater understanding, comprehension and enjoyment of the materials studied, and greater engagement with reading.
This approach has the benefit of not putting a strain on the working memory as it draws on connected ideas, themes and knowledge tackled in other lessons, making learning more meaningful, enjoyable and long term. Each Unit draws upon knowledge and skills covered throughout the school, and this has been mapped to show where, for example a History Unit focus with an art or DT element can draw upon previous learning and experiences, building towards new knowledge.
Please explore some of the examples of our planning documents and the planned coverage of the History, Geography, Art and design and design and technology aspects of the National Curriculum in KS1 and KS2.