Project and Problem Based Learning with STEM School Chattanooga

The curriculum at the STEM school is rooted in a project/problem based learning philosophy (referred to as PBL). PBL is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curriculum skills while working in small collaborative groups. Because PBL is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they are studying. Strong related arts programs and advanced technological resources will foster creativity and innovative critical thinking skills as they address the project challenges presented in school curriculum.

PBL stands for two types of learning that are used at the STEM school:
1. Project Based Learning – Create a product that meaningful addresses an essential question.
2. Problem Based Learning – Apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem.

PBL units take place throughout the year at STEM School Chattanooga.  During these units, all courses are connected to the PBL essential question or problem so that no course is taught in isolation.  In traditional schools where courses are taught and learned in isolation from each other, traditional education promotes rote memorization and lack of relevance to what we expect of workers in the real world.  Consequently, STEM School Chattanooga makes PBL integration across courses a primary focus of our school.  By implementing PBL units in this way, we require students to apply content and skills from across the curriculum in developing innovative products and solutions.

Beginning in the 4th unit of 9th grade, all PBL units are designed collaboratively with a business or higher ed partner.

9th Grade PBL Units
Unit 1 – How do we prevent new strains of viruses from emerging? Timeframe – Aug/Sept
Unit 2 – How would you mitigate the effects of 100 degree days in Chattanooga? Timeframe – Sept/Oct
Unit 3 – Develop a new platform for gaming in the future. Timeframe – Nov/Dec
Unit 4 – Build and program a robot to navigate an unknown maze.  Timeframe – Jan/Feb.  Partner – TVA.
Unit 5 – Design an energy efficient, cost effective house.  Timeframe – Mar/Apr.  Partner – UTC.

10th Grade PBL Units
Unit 1
– How does a school Think Blue? Timeframe-Aug/Sept.  Partner-Volkswagen.
Unit 2 – Redesign a current work of art into a digitally innovative piece. Timeframe – Sept/Oct. Partner-Hunter Museum.
Unit 3 – Create a K-5 STEM unit. Timeframe – Nov/Dec.  Partner-Creative Discovery Museum.
Unit 4 – Code a text-based game in Python.  Timeframe – Jan/Mar.  Partners-Unum and Engage3D.
Unit 5 – Optimize transportation patterns through simulation.  Timeframe – Mar/Apr.  Partners-UTC SimCenter and Vanderbilt.


To download the video: Problem-Based Learning from PEF STEM Innovation Hub on Vimeo.