​​Lillian Katz and Sylvia Chard - The Project Approach

external image KatzLilian.jpgexternal image photo.jpgLilian Katz & Sylvia Chard

Dr. Lillian G. Katz -is widely known as an international leader in early childhood education. Dr. Katz has written over 150 publications on early childhood education, teacher education, child development, and parenting. She is also the founder of two Journals: Early Childhood Research Quarterly and Early Childhood Research & Practice first publicised in early 1999. Dr. Katz received a Ph. D in 1968 at Stanford University. For more than three decades Dr. Katz taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1968 to 2000. In addition, she directed the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education (ERIC/EECE) for over 30 years. She also served as president for the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Dr. Katz has done an unbelievable amount of lecturing having spoken in all 50 states and 43 countries, and continues to lecture abroad. Currently, Dr. Katz is Principal investigator for the Illinois Early Learning Project. (Check out http://illinoisearlylearning.org)

Dr. Sylvia Chard -
has contributed extensively to Early Childhood Education. She has written many books related to Early Childhood Education including the book Engaging Children’s Minds: The Project Approach (Ablex, 1989), which she co-authored along with Lillian G. Katz. Dr. Chard also wrote two Practical Guides for Teachers on project work published by Scholastic (1998), The Project Approach: Making Curriculum Come Alive and The Project Approach: Managing Successful Projects. In addition to her written work, Dr. Chard taught in England at various levels in schools from preschool through high school. She was also head of the Department of Early childhood Education at the College of St. Paul and St. Mary in Cheltenham, England for nine years. Dr. Chard completed her M. Ed. and Ph. D at the University of Illinois. She is currently working as Professor Emeritus of Early childhood Education at the University of Alberta, Canada and has held a position there since 1989. Before becoming the professor Emeritus of E.C.E. she was the Director of the Laboratory School the Child Study Center in the Department of Elementary Education for seven years. Dr. Chard continues to develop a website on the Project Approach: http://www.project-approach.com. (To learn more about Dr. Sylvia Chard visit http://www.ualberta.ca/~schard/Bio.htm).

The Beginnings of the Project Approach

This in-depth investigation has a long history in the early childhood and primary school curriculum. The Project Approach stems in part from the work of the American educator and philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952). The approach was first developed in Dewey’s Laboratory School at the University of Chicago, over a period of seven years (1896-1903), and was later made famous by William H. Kilpatrick during the Progressive era. Kilpatrick referred to it as the ‘project method’. (Approaches to Early Childhood Education, J. Roopnarine, J.E. Johnson and http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v8n2/clark.html)
Dewey conducted the research and development of the approach along with his wife and several teachers. Dewey believed that:
“Knowledge is not absolute, immutable, and external, but rather relative to the developmental interaction of man with his world as problems arise to present themselves for solution.”
Lillian Katz and Sylvia Chard proposed the approach be referred to as the project ‘approach’ rather than ‘method’ or ‘model’. The preferred term ‘project approach’ suggests that children’s investigations/project work represent one of many elements of an early childhood or primary curriculum. Rather than the project work functioning as the entire curriculum model, it complements and embraces other aspects of the curriculum, which in turn encourages children’s development and learning. (Approaches to Early Childhood Education, J. Roopnarine, J.E. Johnson and http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v8n2/clark.html) (As previously mentioned the history of the Project Approach is quite extensive but very interesting and worth the time.)

The Theory

The Project Approach is seen as a part of the curriculum for children from the ages of about three to eight years and works in a complementary relationship to other aspects of curriculum. This allows freedom and a wide variety of other curriculum elements for the teacher and students. The project approach gives children the opportunity to learn about things that interest them and still allows spontaneous play in the early years while also introducing structure in the classroom. It teaches basic skills and embraces children’s proficiencies. Children are actively engaged in their learning and are self motivated.
(Approaches to Early Childhood Education, J. Roopnarine, J.E. Johnson and Engaging Children’s Minds: The Project Approach, L. G. Katz, S. C. Chard)
To learn more about the theory of the Project Approach check out this website: http://www.projectapproach.org

Learning Goals

Knowledge- This can consist of “ideas, concepts, schemas, facts, information, stories, myths, legends, songs, and other such contents of the mind.” By involving children in their learning and emphasizing the importance of helping young children achieve knowledge, children “achieve deeper and more accurate understandings of their own experiences.”

Skills- These various skills could be cutting, drawing, counting, coordinating activities with peers, fine and gross motor skills and many more. They are “small, discrete, and relatively brief actions that are fairly easily observed or inferred from behaviour.”

Dispositions- These are habits of mind or ways of responding characteristically to experience from various types of situations. They could include “persistence at tasks, curiosity, generosity or avarice, the disposition to be a reader, to look things up, or to solve problems.”

Feelings- This would be the subjective emotional or affective states that children experience. They might include such feelings of “belonging, self-esteem, confidence, adequacy and inadequacy, competence and incompetence, anxiety, and so forth.”
(Approaches to Early Childhood Education, J. Roopnarine, J.E. Johnson and Engaging Children’s Minds: The Project Approach, L. G. Katz, S. C. Chard)

Phases of Project Work

Phase I: Getting Projects Started- To begin the project, you must first engage the children’s interest and then proceed to an introductory discussion. The discussion would be followed by various activities such as dramatic play, drawing, painting, writing, reporting of personal experiences, etc. This is also a great time to encourage parents to participate.

Phase II: Projects in Progress- This phase would begin with preparations for field work that might be appropriate for the project. Group discussions about the project and searching for information would also be a part of this phase. The children would take part in construction activities, investigation activities, dramatic play, and much more. The children could construct displays for information to communicate with classmates as well as outsiders.

Phase III: Concluding Projects- The project could be completed in various ways and would also depend on the age of the children. Generally speaking though, this phase might involve presentations to other classes, consolidation activities or an open house. At the end of the project it is also important for the teacher and students to reflect on the “skills, techniques, strategies, dispositions, and processes of exploration that the children have used in the project work.”
(Approaches to Early Childhood Education, J. Roopnarine, J.E. Johnson and Engaging Children’s Minds: The Project Approach, L. G. Katz, S. C. Chard)

Project Approach Activities

There are a variety of different activities that can be used and included in project work. Some of these activities include: drawing, writing, reading, recording observations, experimenting, interviewing experts and critiquing everything that is observed and read. Once the information has been gathered children are able to present their project in and through a variety of mediums. These include: paintings, drawings, murals, models, reports, graphs, charts, diagrams, drama as well as many other mediums, that stretch beyond the traditional. http://www.ericdigests.org/1994/project.htm

Benefits of the Project Approach

Due to the fact that children have the opportunity to learn about subjects and topics that interest them, there exists a sense of ownership between the child and his work. In addition, since the project is unique to each child, the work can be adapted for each individual learner. This allows for complete inclusion in the classroom. Essentially, every child experiences learning in ways that both meet their needs and interest them. Since children are taking ownership of their work, these children are more likely to actually retain and remember the information and experiences they learned about.
The Project Approach also allows students to experience learning in real life settings and ways. Through project based learning children are able to interact with other people, their environment and be inquisitive, rather than simply being passive sponges. In addition, responsibility, teamwork and communication are areas in which children will grow immensely since they are constantly performing investigations on their own and then sharing with their peers. Essentially, the Project Approach focuses on the child and how they can grow and develop in real, engaging projects.

Differences between Systematic Instruction and Project Work
Systematic Instruction
Project Work
For acquiring skills
For applying skills
Activity at instructional level
Activity at independent level
Teacher directs child's work
Teacher guides the child's work
Child follows instructions
Child chooses from alternatives
Extrinsic motivation may be important
Intrinsic motivation characterizes the work particularly
Teacher addresses child's deficiencies
Teacher builds on child's proficiencies

Today, there are many educators across the globe who have made use of the Project Approach. Even though the Project Approach provides a wonderful whole education and experience for children there are very few schools that have completed embraced the Project Approach. In Edmonton, there is a Child Study Centre that has adopted the Project Approach in their education. Although this Child Study Centre is linked to the university, this centre offers education from age 4 - grade 6. Most Project Approach centres in North America offer only pre-school and kindergarten. A few other schools that use the Project Approach include: The Emerson School and Illinois Child Care Center.

Resources and Items of Extra Interest

Above, at the Centre for Young Children located on the University of Maryland College Park Campus, teachers work with preschool children using the Project Approach. In the above image children are given magnifying glasses to study and observe pumpkins more closely. The teachers then ask questions, while encouraging and giving the children the skills they need to become scientific thinkers themselves.

‘Sid the Science Kid’ is a current PBS Kids series produced by Jim Hansen that uses the Project Approach. Sid, who is the main character, is an "inquisitive thinker". He helps kids tackle questions they might have, by explaining why things work the way they do. Although this series is presented on the television, it still promotes this type of in-depth learning. To find out more about ‘Sid the Science Kid’ go to
Check out this episode of ‘Sid the Science Kid’. Children investigate how and why pumpkins decay.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhJTLhMK-Xs

To view Project examples from the Pre-K to grade 3 level follow this link. Project Examples.

If you are interested in becoming more familiar with the Project Approach consider viewing the online course.

There are many Project-based sites that may be of interest.

The Project Approach: Making curriculum Come Alive By S. C. Chard

The Project Approach: Managing Successful Projects By S. C. Chard

Engaging Children's Minds: The Project Approach By L. G. Katz & S. C. Chard

J. Heinrichs, A. LeBlanc, J. MacGregor