What does Project-Based Learning look like?


Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a youth-centered pedagogy in which students investigate and problem-solve over a period of time, such as a week or a grading period, to actively learn new concepts and skills. Projects typically tackle real-world issues and culminate with a presentation or product. PBL hands-on organic approach to learning makes content relative, engaging and builds the skill-sets youth need will need in future college and career endeavors.


Project-Based Learning lends itself perfectly to how we engage students in out-of-school as it is based on youth using hands-on learning to explore multiple areas of their interest in an informal and collaborative environment. The adaptable nature of OST allows youth to instigate exploration of topics relative to the world they live in. Furthermore, the common practice of partnering with business and community stakeholders is another way which afterschool and project-based learning naturally fit together.

An Authentic Practice

There are certain key concepts of PBL that distinguish it from simply having youth work on a group project with a culminating event. Furthermore, there is a lot of information and confusion on what constitutes PBL. The Buck Institute for Education are the recognized leaders in PBL professional development, instructional practices and educational services . Their Gold Standards are research-based guidelines to help, assess and improve PBL practices. Additionally, we developed an infographic, shown to the right, which breaks down some of the key concepts of PBL as it pertains to an OST setting.


Student-Led Ideation Challenge

The Student-Led Ideation Challenge (SLIC) is a program developed in Loudon County by the Innovative Solutions Consortium (ISC) in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education. This PBL program challenges youth teams to develop solutions to real-world problems that impact the local and global community through a process of brainstorming ideas, building a solution, referencing comparable solutions already in existence, planning estimated costs and culminating with a model. First used during the school-day in Loudoun County Public Schools, the program is well-adapted to the OST setting. Out-of-School Time programs can use the driver-questions in the curriculum or develop their own, as they see relative to the populations they serve.

The training manual is available for free here, and in addition other pay-services are available. For more information click here.



The Buck Institute for Education: Seen as leaders in the practice of Project-Based Learning, BIE creates, gathers, and shares high-quality PBL instructional methods  and provides services to teachers, schools, and districts. Their site includes the Gold Standards of PBL and a curated library of PBL projects, as well as information on  professional development.

High-Quality Project-Based Learning: This framework describes PBL in terms of the student experience and is intended to provide educators everywhere with a shared basis for designing and implementing good projects.The Framework for High Quality Project Based Learning is based on the accumulated experience, wisdom, and research of hundreds of educators who have graciously shared their ideas and critique. It describes six criteria, each of which must be at least minimally present in a project in order for it to be judged “high quality.” It was developed by the Buck Institute with supported from the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Edupotia: Here there are several articles on various aspects of Project-Based learning.