Multiple Literacies In Project-Based Learning (ML-PBL)
In order to adequately support elementary students in their pursuit of scientific knowledge, teachers need an interdisciplinary approach that integrates science, literacy, and mathematics. An interdisciplinary approach supports students in developing knowledge they can use, perceiving science as important to their lives, and building confidence that they have the skills to do science.
With the goal of meeting this need, an interdisciplinary team from the Michigan State University CREATE for STEM Institute, with partners at the University of Michigan, designed and tested rigorous project-based learning units for the upper elementary grades that engage students in sense-making using language, literacy and mathematical tools to develop usable science knowledge.
Multiple Literacies in Project-Based Learning (ML-PBL) resources focus on science teaching and learning to build literacy and mathematical capabilities in students, and create equitable contexts for learning. ML-PBL integrates academic, equity, and social and emotional (SEL) learning goals related to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as well as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Literacy and Mathematics to support student learning. These materials reflect a significant interdisciplinary approach by integrating science, literacy, and mathematics.
This work is supported by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. The materials are available as Creative Commons, open educational resources, not for commercial profit resources. To learn more about the project and the materials you can go to our team's website.
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For more information on project-based learning, please visit this section of our site.
The fifth-grade course contains four interdisciplinary projects that address Next Generation Science Standards and select Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.
Students begin the year by investigating shadows. They collect Fall shadow data that they will compare with data collected months later when they embark on U5.3 Stars. They ask: “What can we predict about a student’s shadow with 100% certainty?”
In the first full project, students explore the question: “Why do some animals need the land unchanged, and some animals change the land?” They map the land’s terrain near their school, and map and ask questions about topography. They consider the land and the animals that live there, some of which are keystone species and change the land in significant ways. Students create a food web and energy triangle based on evidence they gather about decomposition, food chains, the movement of matter, and the flow of energy in a system. Then students expand their maps into an integrated three-dimensional model and consider the potential non-human and human impact on a healthy ecosystem.
U5.2 Chemistry of Taste
“How can we create new tastes?” is the driving question for the second project. Students ask questions about how taste works and investigate foods that look the same but have different tastes. They create a model to describe patterns they notice in the tastes of different foods. Through the lenses of patterns, stability and change, and scale, students adapt their models to consider what happens at the particle level when two foods are mixed together, the food is frozen or heated, or when a new substance is created. They engage in texts and mathematical thinking to figure out that plant sugar is composed of air and water and culminate the project by creating their own ‘recipe’ for a new taste and a corresponding marketing plan.
In the third project, students develop solutions to answer the question: “How could we travel 1,000 miles in the same direction, without a compass, map, or phone?” Students gather seasonal outdoor shadow data to figure out a mystery location. They consider the positions of the Sun and Earth and the relationship between the direction and the length of shadows and the angle of the light source. They learn why certain stars can be used for finding directions by modeling the rotation of the planet. Students use data, mathematical thinking, and modeling to communicate their discovery of the mystery location and how to then travel north 1,000 miles.
U5.4 Fresh Water
In the fourth project, students investigate and use physical models to explain where drinkable water is located and how water cycles in and across systems. They figure out: “Where does our drinking water come from, and what do we need to know to protect it?” To develop and build their final artifact, they analyze data and use texts and media to determine sources of water quality problems that could affect their community. Students design a solution to prevent fresh water from running out or from becoming unhealthy and share their solutions with their community.
Grade 5 units are available as free open education resources to educators, instructors, and administrators. Sprocket is designed for teacher access, including teacher lesson planning and support materials, and is not open to students.
We encourage educators to adapt the course to best suit the needs of their classrooms and for them to share their adaptations with other members of the Sprocket community.
To inquire about Multiple Literacies in Project-based Learning professional learning opportunities for your school or school district, please contact the ML-PBL team at MLPBL Project. Options include in-person professional development sessions, on-site or virtual coaching, and collaborative planning support.
Through PBL Science Connections , members of the ML-PBL writing and PL team assist schools in adopting and implementing the ML-PBL curriculum through online and in-person professional learning sessions and teacher coaching. PBL Science Connections adapts programming to meet schools' needs, offering a supportive and responsive approach to working with teachers as they implement NGSS-aligned, student-centered, equitable PBL instruction in their classrooms.Sign Up >