Aaron Moniz & Steve Sostak: Global leaders in professional learning for teaching for sustainability, global competence, project-based learning, student agency, & literacy.

Project-Based, Student-Centered Learning:
How to Bring Deep Learning to Life
in Wuhan

What Does a Project-Based Cycle Look Like
& Why Does it Matter for the Future of Learning?


Why PBL?

Because Project Based Learning works. It engages students in learning that is deep and long-lasting. PBL can be transformative for students – especially those furthest from educational opportunity.

Care: Have empathy to tune in to the why of a challenge or question: to spark inquiry and interest.

Aware: Use metacognitive skills to engage with disciplinary knowledge, information, and literacy (reading, interviewing, research, active listening)

Able: Use curriculum and “soft skills” to be complete an authentic project, work towards a goal, or plan an action that impacts local or global communities.

Act: Draw upon learning to impact others and share their learning. This should be a celebration of learning but also purposeful ‘doing’.

Reflect: Revisit the learning journey. Observe how skills have evolved over time. Determine whether your action was impactful. Think about approach for the future.

Demonstration: Consistently provide evidence of the learning process and how one is utilizing acquired knowledge and skills to apply learning.

World Economic Forum: The Future of Education, 2019

The new research shows that as the digital economy transforms the workplace, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills such as collaboration, communication and problem solving will become ever more important as more traditional roles are mechanized.

With more than half of children now entering school expected to work in jobs that don’t yet exist, adaptability is becoming a core skill.

What is SEL?

Social and Emotional Learning skills are those abilities that lie outside core literacies such as reading, writing and arithmetic. They allow creativity, problem solving and communication and have at their heart social interactions.

Of 16 skills identified in the report as important for the 21st century, 12 are SEL.



Demonstration Session:
What Does a Project-Based Learning Unit Look Like?

Students will work through a PBL cycle, in project teams, to capture & publish stories designed to get multiple perspectives that answer the question: Why is the conservation of the Yangtze River (and specifically the finless porpoise) important to the future of China? An authentic model and spark will stem from the Out of the Blocks podcast.

Challenging problem and guiding question(s):
The Yangtze River is a key geographic, ecological, cultural & economic feature of China. However, the future of the health of the river & the biodiversity in & around the river is endangered. How can we help?

Global Competency Objective(s):
Examine local, global & intercultural issues
Understand and appreciate the perspectives & world views of others
Engage in open, appropriate & effective interactions with people from different backgrounds & cultures
Act for collective well-being & sustainable development.

Sustainable Development Focus Goals:
SDG 6: Clean Water & Sanitation
SDG 14: Life Below Water
SDG 3: Good Health & Wellbeing

21st Century Potential Focus Skills (linked to Edvantage program skills):
1. Literacy
3. Scientific Literacy
4. ICT Literacy
6. Cultural & Civic Literacy
7. Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
8. Creativity
9. Communication
10. Collaboration
11. Curiosity
12. Initiative
13. Persistence
14. Adaptability
15. Leadership
16. Global Competence: Social & Cultural Awareness

Potential Disciplinary Skills:
Characteristics of living things
Use scientific method to answer questions
How does water sustain life?

Stories that define the human experience
Why is story telling important
Speaking and listening skills
Structure of a feature article / essay

Social Studies:
Geography and culture
Resources and sustainability
Civics, society, and responsibility
Metacognitive thinking



The Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia, used to be one of the only two rivers in the world that was home to two different species of dolphin—the Yangtze finless porpoise and the Baiji dolphin. However, in 2006 the Baiji dolphin was declared functionally extinct. This was the first time in history that an entire species of dolphin had been wiped off the planet because of human activity. Its close cousin, the Yangtze finless porpoise, is known for its mischievous smile and has a level of intelligence comparable to that of a gorilla.


Lesson 1:
Establishing the challenge
Establishing global awareness
Establishing why we care
Establishing & practicing active listening skills

Content objectives:
Challenging, authentic problems do not have one, static solution
Understand the basics of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)
Identify problems facing the Yangtze River, specifically the Yangtze Finless Porpoise
Develop active listening skills as a crucial tool to problem-based learning and designing solutions to authentic problems

Language objectives:

Speaking: INITIAL FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT 1 (observation)
Discuss the importance of the UN SDGs and how they are interdependent
Share stories and answers to rich personal inquiry questions to help understand the power of discussion

Exit ticket (1m essays) on why SDGs matter and why active listening matters

Read appropriate-level texts (for the differentiated needs of students) for building background about the issue and the porpoise

Practice and understand the role of active listening and the art of the follow up question to build rapport, empathy, and respect in a deep conversation.