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Project Based Learning (PBL)

Project Based Learning (PBL) is a student-centered instructional approach in which students gain knowledge and skills through active exploration of real world problems and challenges. PBL components include a challenging problem or question, sustained inquiry, authenticity, student voice and choice, reflection, critique and revision, and a public product. Through PBL, students acquire key knowledge and understanding aligned with grade level standards. In addition, PBL facilitates development of Power Skills, which include critical thinking, creativity, cultural proficiency, connections, communication and collaboration.

All students at Davis are provided with opportunities to engage in PBL experiences. Students are presented with a driving question to activate their thinking, then work to answer the question through various learning experiences. PBL topics may change from year to year. See below for PBL driving question examples from previous years for each grade level.


  • How do firefighters keep our community safe?
  • How can we, as young learners, investigate, explore, and contribute to our school community?


  • How can we use our curiosity to learn about something and share information with others?
  • How can I teach others “What makes me, me?” and communicate my message that makes a positive contribution to the world?
  • How can we, as scientists, explore why it is important to have different species in a habitat?

1st Grade

  • How can we, as cultural tour guides, plan a presentation to show tourists what traditions are celebrated in a country?
  • How can we, as students and teachers, teach our peers about a cultural representation of Texas?
  • How can we inform others on how the unique animals at the rocky seashore have adapted to meet their needs in different ways?

2nd Grade

  • How can we identify different adaptations that an animal has to thrive within its habitat?
  • How can we, as students and teachers, plan a presentation to teach others about a famous person?
  • How can we, as environmental scientists, establish an awareness of pollution that affects beaches and marine life for other students, faculty and parents?

3rd Grade

  • How can we, as students and teachers, convince others that we should live in an environmentally- friendly lifestyle?
  • What makes a community successful?
  • How can we, as student scientists, help to educate others about the importance of wetlands in our environment?

4th Grade

  • How can we, as scientists, persuade others which state of matter is the most important and why?
  • How can we, as students/ anthropologists, create a new Texas Native American tribe to show others how Native Americans survived and thrived in Texas?
  • How can we teach others, in an entertaining way, how to use one of the 4th grade math skills to solve math problems?

5th Grade

  • How can we, as engineers and architects, design and construct an arcade game out of  cardboard?
  • How can we as marine biologists create an open ocean exhibit for our Davis community?


PBL in action at Davis

  • Australian Relief Marketplace a Success! January 31, 2020

    Davis Elementary School first grade students learned about the continent of Australia as part of our school wide international study in December, 2019. When students learned of the devastation caused by the Australian wildfires in January, 2020, a PBL study emerged to answer the question How can we, as first grade students in Austin, Texas, contribute to the relief efforts to help the animals in Australia that were harmed in the wildfires?

    Students and teachers generated ideas and decided to host a fundraiser where they would sell craft items created by the students. Students created handmade crafts and art featuring Australian animals, including koala drawings, echidna figurines, 3D wombats and more! Each class created a different craft to sell in the marketplace fundraiser. Students also created signs to publicize the event and with the guidance of teachers, they coordinated every aspect of the event.

    This PBL culminated in 1st grade students hosting an Australian Relief Marketplace, where students, teachers, parents and the community came to purchase arts and crafts, with all proceeds benefitting the World Wildlife Fund Australia. The students were incredibly proud of their work and the fact that they raised over $1800 to support relief efforts!

    Click here to read an article by KVUE News.

  • Kindergarten PBL January 14, 2020

    Kindergarten teachers and students spent a great deal of time in December working through a Project Based Learning unit to answer the question How can we help newcomers feel welcome in our school and in our community? During the research portion of the PBL, students learned through teacher read-alouds, discussions, special visitors, and more. Their learning centered around different cultures, different parts of the world, and how it feels to be in a new place. Students then came up with ideas of what they could do to make people feel welcome. See the photos below for some examples of the great ideas and creations the students generated. Our students are truly amazing, and this is a great example of how some of our youngest learners can teach others, and in this case, remind us all of the importance of making sure everyone feels welcome and included.