The Project Approach fosters not only academic knowledge and skill sets but what many educators refer to as the whole child. The use of the word whole stems from research indicating that students need more than content mastery to succeed in the 21st century—they need to be physically, emotionally, and socially healthy; they need to be intellectually challenged and supported by caring adults; and they need to be interested and engaged in their school learning.
Though project work has long prepared students for health, happiness, and success—even as far back as the 16th century—it emerged recently as a prime teaching strategy of the 21st century. Headlines everywhere refer to a rapidly changing and more global world, and governments and organizations call upon students to lend their hands through service, innovation, and problem-solving. These calls to action require a new kind of education—one that inspires, connects, and empowers students. The Project Approach does just that by:
- connecting students to their local and global communities—and providing them with real-world experiences beyond the classroom;
- fostering what researchers refer to as essential 21st-century skills, including critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity;
- providing opportunities to integrate technologies into the classroom—and to use technologies as tools for achieving specific purposes instead of as ends in themselves;
- providing students with opportunities to apply the skills they acquire through systematic instruction;
- building on the individual needs, interests, and strengths of all students—and allowing students to work, where appropriate, at their own pace;
- giving students a sense of purpose and fostering self esteem;
- providing opportunities for service learning and enhancing a sense of social justice and responsibility;
- improving research skills by helping students not only to use print and electronic resources but also field work, surveys, interviews, consultations with experts, and firsthand observations and experiences;
- honing literacy and communication skills by enabling students to use a variety of media to share the process and product of their project work with authentic audiences;
- integrating content knowledge and skills from a variety of disciplines, so that students come to see and make cross-curricular connections;
- enhancing the multicultural literacy of students by giving them opportunities to learn about and collaborate with people from other cultures.