The Box Project

By Natalia Parker | February 26, 2018 | Project Work, Student Engagement, Uncategorized

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Project-Based Learning tends to pique people’s curiosity.  What does it look like? How does it address standards?  What makes it an improvement over our current typical instruction?

Discovery Lab students recently completed one of our Project-Based Learning units, The Box Project.  This project incorporated many Common Core Standards as well as skills we know to be important for future workers in our world (cooperation, reflection, self-direction, and communication).  It also allowed students opportunities for open-ended expressions of their learning.

The project started with the introduction of our driving questions: What can you create with a Cardboard Box? Students worked as a group to discuss and brainstorm ideas for their answer to the question.

Through the use of different books discussing architecture, creativity and engineering, the kids delved deeper into the topic to  learn about principles of design, geometry, and project planning.  Some of our favorite book resources in this project were:

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Next, students brainstormed and recorded their individual ideas, and then they paired up with a partner to choose a concept they could align on.  This step required collaborative conversation with their partner, and compromise, which is not always easy.  In true form, our students modified the original plan to accomplish the goal and meet their personal needs. The change that grew from their own desires was to make their own creation, but still have it tie into their partner’s.  By allowing the project to be adapted in this way, our teacher ensured they would each get to bring a portion of the project home.  The students then did a simple sketch/diagram of their design and included labels and created a list of supplies they thought they would need.  After this, they got to choose their supplies and start building.  This was the part they’d all been waiting for!

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Halfway through the building phase, they participated in critiquing each other’s projects.  They provided other teams with Warm Feedback/Celebrations and Constructive Feedback/Suggestions.  Teams then took what they  heard and decided on a path forward.  Many chose to keep with their original ideas and others took their classmates suggestions and made minor tweaks.

Once building was complete, we discussed having an exhibition of our work for parents to come see.  We looked at examples of professional exhibitions and discussed what materials they used.  We then broke into two groups,  an “Exhibition Design Team” that designed the layout and setup of our project exhibition and a “Marketing Team” which created the poster to advertise our exhibition.

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The final piece of our project had each student type up or dictate (depending on developmental level) a short description of their project.  They also participated in reflecting on the project and recording their thoughts about the process.  This was not an easy task.  Most truly enjoyed the designing/building phase of the project, but found the collaboration part and providing a description of their project part to be more challenging. Despite the challenges, they also learned different ways to work within a group, how to include each member, and how to make their ideas known and heard in respectful ways.  This may have not been their favorite part, but this is where lots of growth was made!!

Here is an example of one of the reflective rubrics we used (from the Buck Institute PBL resources) . . .

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Project-Based Learning brings many different advantages to the classroom.  Projects help to create meaningful learning opportunities which are important for student engagement as well as retention of information. Projects allow students to develop self-direction, communication, collaboration and reflection skills, which will be as important in the future as the ability to read and do math.  While our class worked on the Box Project, students also continued to work on other individual and group assignments throughout the day to help address other standards not included in the project.  Through this blend of project/group work and individualized work, our students are able to make academic progress at their own level and also spend a large portion of their day working in teams on projects that they find motivating and interesting. If you have questions about our classroom or would like to talk more about our approach to learning, contact us at

This project addressed the following Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards:

English Language Arts

L.K.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

SL 1.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

SL 1.5 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

SL.2.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

S.L.K.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

S.L.K.5 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

S.L.K.6 Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.


1.G.A.2 Compose two-dimensional shapes (rectangles, squares, trapezoids, triangles, half-circles, and quarter-circles) or three-dimensional shapes (cubes, right rectangular prisms, right circular cones, and right circular cylinders) to create a composite shape, and compose new shapes from the composite shape.

Next Generation Science Standards

K-2-ETS1-2 Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.