Welcoming the 27th batch has been an enthralling experience for Project Child Indonesia, especially the river school program. Running as the oldest program in PCI, our excitement never worn out to welcome new volunteers and interns who are ready to help children in our community sites. The first meetings of each river school were prepared to introduce the new volunteers to the children. Games and fun activities arranged by them aimed to be bonding occasions during the early introductory class, before they jump to Project Based Learning.
Project Based Learning (PBL) has been an approach we choose to nurture and spark children’s critical thinking and social awareness. This batch, PBL approach is tailored to current SS condition which not only the volunteer but also the children who come voluntarily to our river schools. As the result, the number of students is unpredictable in each meeting. It becomes our motivation to create fluid syllabus which could be designed to either small or big class. The activity during the project involves active exploration and awareness upon the real problems as we choose public places in the neighborhood to become the major theme for the PBL.
We believe that children should be equipped to something which has never been or less likely taught at formal schools, such as a real problem-solving case to evoke their sense of awareness toward their surrounding. The soft skills in PBL which are intertwined with 21st century skills (ex: Learning & innovation skills, Life & career skills, etc) are something that should be taught positively. A topic on public places is a good example to be shared in PBL class. Children could start from their closest environment to care about their neighborhood and surrounding. Children are expected to explore and observe the public places in their neighborhood a lot closer this time, not just some places they often passing by as they play and walk around the small alley down the neighborhood. This time, children are given time to look closer to find interesting things and even problems. Therefore, children should be able to map the problems and explore the possible solution.
During the project, children are required to write on weekly journal. It is used to track on their own project, consisting of planning and also actual implementation. Although it is one real challenge to help children to write their plans, we do believe that every effort is worth to be driven. The journal and driving questions given by volunteers are techniques to introduce children with literacy context of critical thinking and ability to design their own project. This concept of literacy is integrated within 21st century skills (Trilling & Fadel, 2009) which we try to set objective goals in PBL.
Lastly, teacher-centered approach is away from our learning process as teachers (volunteers) act as facilitators to assist children in doing the project. The real problem in the real world is something that we believe need to be exercised from an early age. Thus, in complementing formal education, we try to exercise these soft skills to prepare children for the upcoming challenges.
Written by FIlla Lavenia P.