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 the core curriculum. Based on a challenging question 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. Based on a constructivist approach to teaching and learning, the teacher acts as a facilitator to learning.
Research shows that project-based learning increases critical thinking skills (Shepard, 1998), and fosters positive attitudes toward mathematics and superior performance with conceptual questions and applied problems (Boaler, 1997).
Furthermore, elementary teachers who used project-based learning identified several positive benefits, including attitudes toward learning, work habits, problem-solving capabilities, and self-esteem. (Tretten and Zachariou, 1995)
The Center for Ecoliteracy has supported teachers in designing project-based learning experiences, such as habitat restoration, the evolution of agriculture, and changing the food in schools.