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“The magic of our schools is that they kill curiosity and creativity. . . I’ve met lots of smart six year olds, but not one interesting sixteen year old.”

[Gore Vidal, in an interview on British Television shown on 18th May 2008]

The arguments for delivering 21st century skills to our students have been well made and are generally accepted by educators and parents alike. We are all determined - we have been since 1983 with the publication of A Nation at Risk - to ensure that things will change. The difficulties arise when we make an attempt to change what is actually going on in most of our classrooms on a day-to-day basis.

We know that the students who sit in our classrooms are markedly different from us, their parents. We know from daily experience that they learn differently, that we are teaching too slowly and linearly for this generation of tech savvy, multiple processors. We have research that tells us that collaborative learning is one of the answers for this generation. We increasingly use PBL in higher education, in medical, technology and business schools. The benefits of the approach are demonstrable. The interconnected global world we now inhabit requires us to learn how to work effectively in teams as well as on our own. The decisions we make, with the information we have access to, are now frequently too complex for one person to make on his or her own. We know that existing at the forefront of the World and being successful in the future that we are creating is about connectivity, innovation and speed.

We came to problem-based learning through a somewhat different door: discovering that creativity and innovation had all but disappeared from our children by the time they reached the third grade.

The shift from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ that takes place at this very young age exerts a pressure to look for the one RIGHT answer and forces children to stifle their innate curiosity and desire for exploration. It also begins the process of competitive independent work when what we increasingly know we need as a society is collaborative, interdependent learning that develops thinking, creativity and possibility. Our children are VERY smart! They understand the system and the stakes! They play the game we have invented for them!

As the authors of a successful pilot project focusing on introducing a problem-based curriculum into elementary schools, we have become very excited by the responses to and research results from our approach. We believe PBL should be first introduced at the elementary school level. Doing this will provide a model for learning and working which will enable students to learn at a faster, multi-sensory pace, begin the process of building all the 21st Century skills we are looking for in our future workforce and provide them relevant, stimulating environments that motivate them to become genuine lifelong learners.

We invite you to watch the video and join the discussion.

Isla Reddin and Sarah Frossell are partners in KiCubed.
Please contact the writers at


Minnesota New Country School - Student developed video with everything you need to know about Project Based Learning.
Minnesota New Country was the first Charter School in the United States.

Woorana Park Primary School, Australia - This video shows how the school was renovated to allow for more PBL. It also focuses on how the staff works together on Team Teaching.

PBL Online Management System…
Project Foundry is a proven online project based learning management system built by practitioners who understood the value of the pedagogy and inherent need for a streamlined tool that engages students and ensures meaningful academic results.

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