Project based learning Diary by Marijana Dvorski


I am a preschool teacher with Master's degree in early childhood and preschool education.I work in Zapresic, Croatia with 24 children age 4 - 5 years. We don't have any ICT in our class. Lately we don't even have any internet connection - I guess the signal is too weak. Anyway, if I want to use ICT I bring my own laptop or tablet into the class. One important thing for me is nicely said in this article above this introduction :"Why pedagogy First, Tech Second Stance is Key to the Future". Especially when we work with young learners.

PROJECT BASED LEARNING - thoughts, questions...

I think that PBL increase selfconfidence at children, give them a try to handle with real situations where they need to find real solutions to solve the problems. Question is how to keep young learners ( preschool age) longer in project based activities, how to make children investigate the themes even outside the classroom. Preschool teachers also should involve parents in those activities. Parents are important as valuable support in pbl orientation in the classroom - they can support their's children curiosity and have a feedback about learning outcomes.

PBL - Our educational system

Sometimes we are just afraid to leave traditional way of teaching where teachers knows what's right and what's wrong. In many cases our educational system doesn't support that way of teaching, or should I say suporting our students in learning. We don't have enough equipment or sometimes we don't have time as teachers to prepare all by ourselves. Are we as a teachers aware that world is changing now faster than it was in time of our childhood? Is it easier for us to stay inside our comfort zones and teach our students traditionally, without thinking how will they use that knowledge in twenty, thirthy years from now? PBL have high demands on teachers and children. PBL is a great challenge for our societies in many ways - we have to accept diversities in thinking, understanding, inventing, learning; we have to be critical about the world around us, ready to live in a world full of fast changes, we have to make decisions fast and on a daily basis. Some teachers are ready for this, some are not.


There are 24 students age 4 - 5 years in my classroom where I work during the day with my colleague. I spent every day alone with them 3,5 hours daily. Most common strategy I use is to watch their activities, find out what are their interest and then we try to investigate more about specific topics. We also have a school calendar and have to obey some important dates in it. I try to collect as many materials as I can to improve material context in the classroom, to support children's curiosity and need to investigate world around them. And I feel that I have plenty of space to improve my approach. I would love that students work more independently on specific topics. Above all, I alway try to encourage them to collaborate with each others.

I teach all the subjects in my class, I guess as every other preschool teacher. I would love to experiment with PBL in subject connected with environment - recycling, for example.


Driving question

What's in common to all those things?

I work as a preschool teacher with children age 5; 24 students in the class. I would love to introduce them recycling, and not only to introduce but to make them think about how we use things in everyday life and what are the consequences. I would also like to inspire my student to recycle at home as well as in the kindergarten. I will bring different types of raw materials - used papers, cardboards, glass, plastic, electronic waste, textille, bricks, pieces of concrete. I would spread them around the class, every type of material on a different table. I would ask my students to identify and explain all visible materials. I would ask them: What do we do with those materials in eveyday life? How long can we use different materials? What we do with them when we don't need them anymore? What all those raw materials have in common?

Review made By Annalisa Agnese date 10-06-2016 16:18 Comment: I think questions are open-ended and could spark curiosity and engage the students with clear and trasversal outcomes. Well done!

Collection from web - some driving questions for kindergartens:

1. What different kinds of tools are there and how do they work?

2. What makes a community?

3. What is theatre?

4. How do people buy and sell goods? - very interesting question, never thought about it!

5. What different kinds of tools are there and how do they work?


According to Jennifer Leigh Aschermann, Vygotsky stated that learning awakens in children a variety of internal developmental processes that can operate only when they interact with more competent people in their environment and in cooperation with their peers (Vygotsky, 1978). He stressed that children develop in a social matrix that is formed by their relationships and interactions with other children. The social environment is a major contributor to the cognition of children because of the open area of communication that exists that allows them to express and negotiate ideas as well as contribute to each other’s understanding. Vygotsky theorized that when children scaffold each other, they modify a task and offer assistance to each other to help complete the task (Tharpe & Gallimore, 1988). When children model each other, they offer behaviors to each other for imitation, thereby helping each other to see the appropriate behaviors, understand the reasons for their use, and exhibit the specific behaviors in order to put them into their own understanding (Tharpe & Gallimore, 1988). Scaffolding and modeling typically occur between children of different levels of cognitive and/or social understanding, though it is possible for it to occur between children of the same competence level. The premise behind these actions is that one child will teach another. One child will be more capable of completing a task than another, and will assist a peer in understanding and completing the specific process at hand. A more-capable peer can also build on the competency of a less-capable peer and support a level of competence that is slightly beyond it. This behavior awakens developmental processes in children that can operate only when they interact with others in their environment and in cooperation with their peers (Miller, 1993)

Resilience - staying with problems

Couple of years ago started a master study for early childhood education in Croatia and I decided to go on with my professional development. Since I work on contracts, it happened to me to be without a job for couple of months during that period. It was had to struggle with money issue, but I was so happy and motivated to finish my master study and I worked even harder despite all the problems I faced. It was the best period of my life, felt so fulfilled and satisfied.


Scaffolds can take many forms, and the selection of appropriate scaffolds depends in large part on the nature of the content and the needs of the students. The following are examples of common scaffolds that can be used to support student understanding:

by Sarah Field Curriculum and Program Manager

Vygotsky: Zone of proximal development

Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist, introduced the concept of a zone of proximal development (ZPD), which is the notional gap between a.) the learner's current developmental level as determined by independent problem-solving ability and b.) the learner's potential level of development as determined by the ability to solve problems under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.

The learner's current developmental level

Working with the large group of children of preschool age learned me that sometimes the hardest thing is to recognize the learner's current developmental level and than to coordinate between different develpmental levels among all learners.

Reverse brainstorming (students resilience)

I'll do that instead of you, let him/her to do that, to be part of the activitiy, you can't do that, that's too hard for you, don't even try it, you made a mistake again, you don't understand, you should do better, no way you can do that all by yourself and so on.

Center on the Developing Child (2015). The Science of Resilience (InBrief). Retrieved from

One way to understand the development of resilience is to visualize a balance scale or seesaw (see image below). Protective experiences and adaptive skills on one side counterbalance significant adversity on the other. Resilience is evident when a child’s health and development are tipped in the positive direction, even when a heavy load of factors is stacked on the negative side. Understanding all of the influences that might tip the scale in the positive direction is critical to devising more effective strategies for promoting healthy development in the face of significant disadvantage. When positive experiences outweigh negative experiences, a child’s “scale” tips toward positive outcomes.

Resilience requires supportive relationships and opportunities for skill-building.

Resilience results from a dynamic interaction between internal predispositions and external experiences.

Learning to cope with manageable threats to our physical and social well-being is critical for the development of resilience.

Some children respond in more extreme ways to both negative and positive experiences.

Resilience can be developed at any age, but earlier is better.

Implications for Policy and Practice

Resilience requires supportive relationships and opportunities for skill-building.

When positive experiences outweigh negative experiences, a child's "scale" tips toward positive outcomes. Credit: Center on the Developing Child.

When positive experiences outweigh negative experiences, a child’s “scale” tips toward positive outcomes. Credit: Center on the Developing Child.

Credit: Center on the Developing Child.

No matter the source of hardship, the single most common factor for children who end up doing well is having the support of at least one stable and committed relationship with a parent, caregiver, or other adult. These relationships are the active ingredient in building resilience: they provide the personalized responsiveness, scaffolding, and protection that can buffer children from developmental disruption. Relationships also help children develop key capacities—such as the ability to plan, monitor, and regulate behavior, and adapt to changing circumstances—that better enable them to respond to adversity when they face it. This combination of supportive relationships, adaptive skill-building, and positive experiences constitutes the foundation of resilience. Resilience results from a dynamic interaction between internal predispositions and external experiences. Children who do well in the face of significant hardship typically show some degree of natural resistance to adversity and strong relationships with the important adults in their family and community. Indeed, it is this interaction between biology and environment that builds the capacities to cope with adversity and overcome threats to healthy development. Resilience, therefore, is the result of a combination of protective factors. Neither individual characteristics nor social environments alone are likely to produce positive outcomes for children who experience prolonged periods of toxic stress.

Learning to cope with manageable threats to our physical and social well-being is critical for the development of resilience.

Not all stress is harmful. There are numerous opportunities in every child’s life to experience manageable stress—and with the help of supportive adults, this “positive stress” can be beneficial. Over time, both our bodies and our brains begin to perceive these stressors as increasingly manageable and we become better able to cope with life’s obstacles and hardships, both physically and mentally. However, when adversity feels overwhelming and supportive relationships are not available, stress can turn toxic and “tip the scale” toward negative outcomes. Some children respond in more extreme ways to both negative and positive experiences.

Individuals never completely lose their ability to improve their coping skills, and they often learn how to adapt to new challenges. The brain and other biological systems are most adaptable early in life, and the development that occurs in the earliest years lays the foundation for a wide range of resilient behaviors. However, resilience is shaped throughout life by the accumulation of experiences—both good and bad—and the continuing development of adaptive coping skills connected to those experiences. What happens early may matter most, but it is never too late to build resilience.

Implications for Policy and Practice

The capabilities that underlie resilience can be strengthened at any age. Age-appropriate activities that have widespread health benefits can also improve resilience. For example, regular physical exercise and stress-reduction practices, as well as programs that actively build executive function and self-regulation skills, can improve the abilities of children and adults to cope with, adapt to, and even prevent adversity in their lives. Adults who strengthen these skills in themselves can model positive behaviors for their children, thereby improving the resilience of the next generation.

Research has identified a set of factors that help children achieve positive outcomes in the face of significant adversity. Individuals who demonstrate resilience in response to one form of adversity may not necessarily do so in response to another. Yet when communities and families strengthen these factors, they optimize resilience across multiple contexts.

Factors include:

providing supportive adult-child relationships;

scaffolding learning so the child builds a sense of self-efficacy and control;

helping strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities

using faith and cultural traditions as a foundation for hope and stability.

Suggested citation: Center on the Developing Child (2015). The Science of Resilience (InBrief). Retrieved from

Entrepreneurial mindset

Resilience & initative & ownership

Five-time entrepreneur and author Alex Cowan argues in Issue 1od Experimental Enterpreneurshil Excercises Journal: “To graduate entrepreneurs with a 21st century skill set, the educator must both lower the barrier to applying new techniques through practice and fundamentally change the way students think about new ventures to motivate their use.”

Diagram 1 The Entrepreneurial Mindset Ernst & Young, 2011: Nature or Nurture? Decoding the DNA of the Entrepreneur


Review made By Monica Giansanti date 24-06-2016

Dear Marijana, I find your design very interesting and engaging. Educating on the production, recycling, reducing and reusing of wastes is crucial and it is fundamental starting at children. Your Learnin Deasign is well balance in the all parts (aims, autcomes and activities), but I would like to suggest you to introduce a part concerning the reuse of some wastes. Why don't you think to propose to your pupils something like the bottle questions the Administrators of the course asked us? It can develop creativity of pupils and surely you will find many many suggestions coming from them. Children find a relevant number of creative solutions, than adults. A part this, your project well supports the critical thinking, responsability and indipendence of your young students and well create a bridge with their families. At the end I wish you a lot of fun with your project and lots of success in PBL.

Really appreciate the possibility to learn from my colleagues. It is always worth to hear some constructive suggestions and opinion.

Review made By KAROLINA KARLSEN LOPEZ date 24-06-2016

Dear Marijana, Finally I could open your learing designer ;). The topic is very interesting and motivating because you start from something related to your students: materials. They have bottles at home, use papers to work etc. I liked it. Furthermore, you present a lot of group activities where children have to think and discuss. I like it because they have to learn to be critical and find solutions. Moreover, the activities are focused on the sudents and not the teacher. Keep working and congratulations! :)

Assesment in the pre-school education

Continuous observations of each child and the group as a whole and objectively documenting what is the function of monitoring child development and achievements are important preconditions for the acquisition of skills training.

In pre-school education the most important is observation method of assessing a child's growth, development and learning. It is defined as a process of observation of children in work or play without interfering with the activity (Rutsch, 2000), and carried out for the purpose of collecting data that will help educators to find the most appropriate educational journey through modern orientation in which the child is the center of all events and the origin of the work and activity.

The best way to improve the development of children is teaching that is focused on what children can achieve with a little support from adults, not checking what they can do without assistance.

If the planned activities are too light or too heavy, child leaves the activity. The level of active participation of a child depends primarily on educator - his choice of teaching strategies as well as creating an environment that is rich in educational and educational resources, and based on data obtained with objective and continuous observation of each individual child and the group as a whole.

Educator have to carefully observe children and document all activities using various techniques of recording and thus leads to important data on children,daily educational practice, our own work, the reconstruction of events during the day. In literature, these notes are called "current notes', descriptive and narrative notes (Rutsch, 2000) or anecdotal notes, which have a beginning, middle, and end (Billman, Sherman, 1997), documents the "paper-pencil" (Pirard et al., 2011). This specific form contains information on what the child specifically done, how it is done, what preceded it, in which context takes place and what is the result of such behavior. These notes are evidence of child development, progress, experience, learning, and possible problems. Each educator should be aiming to collect as many notes, which will allow discovering what the child is "inside out" (Rutsch, 2000) and on the basis of that analyze to evaluate and innovate educational practice.

Assesment activity

Collaborative posters: Students work in groups to make posters and each student in a group uses a different color marker. Teachers can see how each student contributed.

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