LITTLE ARMENIA—Design Based Learning, also known as DBL, integrates design based projects into the curriculum, enhancing and furthering the learning process. Integrating projects into lessons is not a revolutionary idea in education; however, the way DBL works is different and far more engaging. At Pilibos, kindergarten through 3rd grade students fully utilize the techniques and methods of DBL in their daily curriculum. As a result of DBL, students become more engrossed in the learning process as they delve into complex and challenging problems and come up with solutions. Many of the challenges mimic real life situations.
Teachers integrate creative experiences into all aspects of the curriculum across all subjects through guided lessons that meet the demand of the four “C”s of the Common Core State Standards: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
Through the design based process, students are encouraged to think “outside the box” and create new solutions to problems and challenges, effectively encouraging active inquiry and a higher-level of thinking. Students’ abilities to acquire new understanding are enhanced when they are connected to meaningful problem-solving activities, and when students are helped to understand why, when, and how those facts and skills are relevant.
The sequential design challenges help students express their ideas in more effective and insightful ways. Students’ vocabulary is expanded to include new words that effectively describe the challenges they face and their reasoning behind their solutions. Through their enhanced vocabulary, students not only learn how to express themselves more efficiently, they gain a richer vocabulary that enables them to be more proficient in all their classes and communication.
DBL is not a singular act. It is a partnership among students and teachers. They work together toward a common goal or toward solving a common problem. Students are assigned roles and have clear responsibilities on what they need to do; however, with the guidance of their teacher, they work together in merging these roles to formulate successful strategies and solutions.
DBL would not be possible without the creativity of the teacher and the students. DBL is based upon critical and unconventional thinking and solutions to problems. As a result, students are obliged to think creatively and in extraordinary ways. Students must investigate, observe, document, and implement in “never before seen” ways. They then reflect on the outcomes and repeat the process again when faced with new challenges.
DBL is only one example of a methodology implemented by Pilibos teachers to empower and motivate students to become 21st century scholars, thinkers, and change makers.