Wednesday / May 29

Empower Your Students to Design and Fund Their Own Project-Based Learning Experiences

What is Project-Based Learning?

Project-based learning (PBL) activities present an engaging question, task, or problem that students then explore through authentic, real-world experiences. The goal is to teach students academic content while they are working in small, collaborative teams. Many PBL activities can also be designed to support community service programs that align to a school’s curricular content. Other projects can be set up in such a way that they focus on identified classroom or school needs.

How Can I Ensure Student Success With Project-Based Learning?

The following components should be embedded into PBL projects:

  1. Real-world problems that require background information research
  2. Choices about content so that students are required to demonstrate their understanding of the project in meaningful ways
  3. A driving question with clearly defined objectives
  4. Small group collaboration
  5. Feedback from key stakeholders
  6. Additional inquiry required for problem solving
  7. Student engagement and reflection
  8. An action plan that includes timelines and achievable goals
  9. A publicly presented project with solutions
  10. Teachers and students sharing control and decision-making

Students are more likely to be successful when their PBL goals are attainable, the steps in learning are realistic, and the outcomes are measurable. Students can self-assess as they work by using learning trackers, completing program development templates, collecting feedback, and capturing reflections.

What Are Some Examples of Project-Based Learning Experiences?

Here are some opportunities that were identified at various school sites:

  • Elementary students created a grant application to secure funding for a PBL community service field trip.
  • Students designed and built a cart that could move scenery on stage for school plays.
  • Middle school students developed a new computer application for tracking the use of machines in the fabrication lab.
  • High school students organized a college awareness day for families and businesses. Objectives included leveraging college scholarship funds and increasing community support for students during their first year in college.

How Can Students Secure Funding for Project-Based Learning Experiences?

Students can apply for grants to fund their PBL project activities by preparing grant proposals. For example, the students and their teacher could draft a grant proposal to leverage PTA funding for a field trip aligned with their grade level common core standards. The template below is a sample that can be used when requesting grant funding for a field trip that supports a PBL experience.

 Sample Grant Proposal for a Field Trip that

Supports a Project-Based Learning Activity

Name of Activity: _____________________________             Date: ____________________

Needs Statement:

  • What problem do you want to solve?
  • What learning outcome do you expect to achieve?
  • Why does your class need to travel for this learning experience?


Goal Statement:

  • What is the goal of this project-based learning experience?
  • What common core standards will be covered by this experience?


Project Description, Timeline, and Evaluation:

  • What are the steps you will use to solve the problem?
  • Who are you collaborating with when resolving the problem?
  • What is the feedback from the various stakeholders?
  • What else should be asked to solve the problem?
  • How will the team reflect on the problem-solving process?
  • How and when will your team share their product and results?
  • How can you ensure that your teacher can provide flexible choices?


Budget Narrative: What are the expenses needed to fund this trip?

  • What are the staffing costs?
  • What are transportation costs?
  • What are the fees for books, supplies, and equipment?
  • What is the entrance fees for students?
  • Are there other miscellaneous expenses?

When students own their learning outcomes and are fully engaged, they attain a high level of mastery with academic content. Share with us your students’ successes in obtaining funds to support their PBL experiences and community service projects!

Written by

Mary Ann Burke has served as a credentialed parent educator and adjunct professor for over thirty years in California’s schools. Dr. Burke has presented effective parenting and school engagement strategies at numerous state and national parent engagement events. She recently authored a twin book series that includes Yikes! Brandon Has Twin Sisters, Yikes! Brandon and His Sisters Play at the Park, and Yikes Brandon and His Twin Sisters Go to School. Mary Ann is the co-author of Effective Parenting! Capable Kids! She is also the author of four Corwin Press books on parent and community engagement in schools. Mary Ann Burke previously led the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Parent Engagement Initiative that serves as a state model for best practices in parent engagement for culturally diverse families. She creates Common Core State Standards kits for parents to use at home and in their child’s classroom to support children’s literacy and academic readiness skills. Mary Ann is an active grandmother of five grandchildren. She shares this expertise with educators and school leaders as a trainer, author, and curriculum developer.

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