Organize High-Quality Professional Development on the Project Approach in Your Own Backyard

About this resource
Reviewed: 2010

On a recent Saturday morning, a group of teachers, administrators, students, and faculty members met to form the Quad Cities Project Group. What a wonderful morning! Educators of the Children’s Campus located at St. Ambrose University hosted the meeting. Participants were from Illinois and Iowa child care centers, public school prekindergarten programs, and other universities in the Quad Cities region. (See photos below.)

The professionalism and enthusiasm of the educators in attendance were impressive. After touring displays of project documentation at the Children’s Campus and sharing in small-group discussion about topics of interest, the participants came together to discuss next steps. Not only did the group want to meet again, they expressed a desire to meet three or four times per year!

These educators explained that they found it interesting and rewarding to have the opportunity to talk with others who were implementing project work. The meeting provided a context for those who shared documentation of their work to reflect deeply on their practice. All the participants were invigorated by the support and enthusiasm they felt from gathering together, and several participants explained how interesting it was to view the indoor and outdoor classrooms of their colleagues. It was truly a high-quality professional development experience.

This meeting represented a new initiative to form regional project groups. For more than 10 years, a group of teachers, administrators, university faculty, and providers of professional development from Illinois and neighboring states has met in the spring to exchange experiences and thoughts related to project work. At the group’s spring 2010 meeting, it was proposed that we form regional groups that would meet in the fall, with all the regional groups meeting together each spring. Based on our experience in the Quad Cities, this was a great idea!

Leadership is needed to get additional regional groups going. If you are interested in forming a regional project group, I encourage you to give it a try! Professional development on the Project Approach can be both home grown and high quality! Those of us who have hosted project group meetings will be glad to share our encouragement and know-how to help you get your regional group started.

Images from the First Meeting of the Quad Cities Project Group

Area teachers, administrators, university faculty, and students gathered to discuss plans for the first meeting.
Deb Brownson, Children’s Campus director, welcomed the participants and explained the schedule for the meeting.
Teachers, students, and university faculty from Illinois and Iowa held small-group discussions about aspects of project work.
Host educators from the Children’s Campus were able to provide tours of their indoor and outdoor classroom environments. Here preschool teacher Mark Baxter answers questions about his classroom environment.
Teachers were able to offer support and information to each other.
Teacher Andromahi Korovilas shared documentation of a preschool project on the bakery.
Visiting educators were interested to read documentation about the social relationships of infants prepared by teacher Shalan Danker.
In-depth documentation of project work was available to supplement wall displays.
Lunn Lubben shared documentation of a project on dogs undertaken by 2-year-olds.
Documentation by teacher Angie Herrington included artifacts from a project on motorcycles that was nearing completion.
A motorcycle was constructed by 3- to 5-year-olds in Angie Herrington’s class.
The host group, Children’s Campus, provided refreshments for the participants.
Visitors were interested in discussing the indoor and the outdoor environments at the Children’s Campus.

Sallee Beneke

An experienced implementer of the Project Approach with young children, Sallee enjoys helping others learn to implement the approach. Ms. Beneke is the author of Rearview Mirror: Reflections on a Preschool Car Project, coauthor of Windows on Learning: Documenting Young Children’s Work, Second Edition, and coeditor of The Power of Projects: Meeting Contemporary Challenges in Early Childhood Classrooms—Strategies & Solutions, as well as several articles related to the Project Approach and documentation. Currently an associate professor at St. Ambrose University, Sallee is interested in the potential of the Project Approach to support the inclusion of diverse learners in prekindergarten classrooms.