3 reasons to combine two loves - baseball and project based learning | Mentoring in the Middle

3 reasons to combine two loves - baseball and project based learning

  Everyone has their own opinions about Project-based learning.  I loved it, but I had many respected colleagues who wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole.  

I think it depends on how much organized chaos you can take in a classroom! 😅

Why try PBL?

For me, there was something magical about watching kids work together to come up with a solution to a problem.  I liked that students, for the most part, were kind and helpful, that they listened to each other, and together, they got excited about their solutions.

It felt like I was watching the better part of themselves come out.  And that made it worth it for me.

What makes something PBL?
There are lots of projects out there that are billed as project-based learning activities but aren't quite.  At the upper elementary level, I think that's perfectly okay.  I think more teachers are willing to dip their toes into these activities when they feel there's some structure.

As long as students have choices, I'm not going to stand on principle.  Anytime students have the chance to collaborate, think critically, communicate, and be creative?  That's a win!

Blend geography, baseball, and food
How do you get to those higher-order skills on Bloom's taxonomy, like synthesis and analysis, or those 21st-century skills mentioned above?  One way I discovered was to combine students' interests with research and critical thinking.  

Learning about baseball teams was a nice addition.  Playing around with food choices was another.  Figuring out a few things about this large country of ours was the third.

In what way does a baseball team reflect the culture of the region?  Its name?  Uniforms?  Important sponsors?  Food served at the stadium?

Stay with me on this one.  

We recently took a 2,000+ mile trip by car over a few weeks.  As we traveled further away from my home, I noticed that if I wanted oatmeal for breakfast, I got the gloppy tasteless stuff.  No menu carried baked oatmeal.  Curious, I posted that question on social media. Many people had no idea what I was talking about.  Where I live, it's on most breakfast menus.

So, staying with food as a way to learn about a region:  have students pick their favorite baseball team or randomly assign them to teams.  With 30 teams, you should have some flexibility if kids want to trade.

Using QR codes, they'll go to MLB sites and learn all about their team.
graphic organizers for students to use on their Baseball-themed project-based learning

As students learn about their team, how it was started, and how many times it might have moved, they learn about our 50 states.  The geography work allows them to explore the geography of the region and how that might have impacted the team.
graphic organizers with a map of the U.S. for students to use on their Baseball-themed project-based learning
Create a Food Business
Students get to research foods that are more common in certain regions and use that knowledge to see if they should invest in that kind of restaurant.  There are fun ways for them to decide what kinds of unique foods they want to serve.

And then they come up with a name, a menu, advertising, and more to let folks know their restaurant is about to open!

There are also 10 extension projects that you can have students do, some of them requiring writing, so with all this project work, you can also get a writing sample.

All the while, your students are collaborating and thinking critically and creatively about what restaurant might work best for their team and their region.
You can click here or on the picture to take a closer look at this challenging and fun resource!

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