Among teachers, school administrators and some forward thinking communities, the term PBL is synonymous with Project Based Learning. Students acquire knowledge and skills by participating in activities that have practical, real world applications. For example, kids might learn addition and subtraction by role playing being a bank teller, or explore chemical reactions by working alongside a pastry chef at a bakery. Whatever the activity, it is clear that learning in a context helps students see and experience how the information they’re acquiring will be useful outside school. It also goes a long way towards making the interface between school and the rest of the world less opaque. While schools should be safe places for students to learn, they should not isolate them from the other lessons life is teaching outside their classrooms. The two must enhance and inform one another.
Here at CritterKin, we live and breathe PBL with a twist. Instead of Project Based Learning, we refer to PBL as “Pit Bull Love.” It’s our way of honoring Lance, the misunderstood pit bull featured in our latest book, Lead With Your Heart, while calling attention to the need for balance in the education equation.
As the current concerns over bullying, prejudice and safety in our schools illustrate, there is a real pressing need for kids to experience and put empathy, compassion and respect into practice. To quote Dr. Gail Melson, Professor of Child Development and Family Studies at Purdue University “In the get-ahead pressure cooker that is modern childhood, how do kids learn about being kind, caring, and nurturing? Taking the perspective of someone or something very different from ourselves—as a different species of animal surely is—stretches and strengthens our empathy ‘muscles’ at any age. It’s a particularly great exercise in emotional understanding for young children…”
The CritterKin approach to PBL begins with a set of wonderful characters and a compelling story. We read from one of the CritterKin books, discuss what it means to be kind, draw pictures of dogs and talk about practical ways to help homeless animals. Our goal is to not only evoke empathy and compassion in kids, but show them how to make those qualities part of their everyday lives through practical hands on projects.
There are currently three books in the CritterKin series, but Lead With Your Heart is the first to explore the topics of bullying, prejudice and fear. Told through the eyes of Lance, a pit bull in search of his forever home, the story takes young readers into Lance’s world as he wonders why human beings change their “skins” two or three times a day, talk to plastic devices held against their ears and wear strange contraptions on their feet called “shoes.” Even more puzzling to Lance, however, are the people who want to make it illegal to own pit bulls.
To discover how Lance and his people overcome their differences, learn to communicate and manage to convince even the most fearful person in town to lead with her heart, grab a copy of Lead With Your Heart to read with your kids. If you’d like to know more about our PBL activities, visit “Start with the Heart” or email us at info@critterKin.com. We’d love to add you and your school to our network of connected, empathic learners.