While many teachers involve students in projects after exposing them to traditional instruction, project-based learning is not an extension or add-on but is central to the curriculum. Based on challenging questions requiring complex thinking and skills, project-based learning is often interdisciplinary.
Projects vary in length — from a couple of weeks to an entire school year — and require students to use a variety of resources, including the community, technology, outside experts, written resources, and the Web, as well as each other. Rather than being the "expert," the teacher acts as a facilitator to learning.
Research shows that project-based learning increases critical thinking skills and fosters positive attitudes toward subjects such as mathematics and superior performance with conceptual questions and applied problems.
Furthermore, elementary teachers who have used project-based learning identify several positive benefits, including better attitudes toward learning, better work habits, improved problem-solving capabilities, and more self-esteem.
The Center for Ecoliteracy has supported teachers in designing project-based learning experiences such as habitat restoration, modeling the evolution of agriculture, and changing the food in schools.