In education we constantly remind ourselves that we are helping to shape the future, which of course we are, but sometimes we need to focus more on shaping the present. There are so many global challenges facing our world today that desperately need solutions, but that seem far too daunting to bring into the classroom, let alone take on as projects. As teachers we sometimes underestimate not only our student's ability to solve real world problems, but our own. Yet, if we bring applicable, real world projects that solve current problems into the classroom the engagement of students is phenomenal and the results are astounding.
We are not talking about your sixth graders solving world hunger in a unit, but smaller scale challenges that need solutions are easily doable, especially when partnered with industry and higher education. Many universities and companies are thrilled to work with schools to collaborate on solving global problems.
The fear of not fully covering their curriculum or preparing for state tests prevents many teachers from approaching problem and project based learning. What many teachers neglect to realize is that you can tailor almost any of these problems to meet your standards, and the students are so actively engaged in learning, creating, and solving, that they retain so much of what they learned; especially our at-risk students. Teachers and students make incredible connections and design real solutions to challenges facing our world today.