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Project-based Learning Is Discovery Learning at the North Bay Riparian Station

The North Bay Riparian Station, an environmental education pilot project, is an excellent example of how project-based learning or in this example--discovery learning effectively integrates with internet technology.  Project-based learning uses projects with unpredictable results to motivate students through doing in an interdisciplinary fashion focusing on all phases of project development as well as leadership and management skills.  The North Bay Riparian Station using Autodesk MapGuide software to create dynamic internet GIS applications focusing on environmental restoration in San Francisco Bay Area.  Students take on leadership roles both as project decision-makers and computer instructors.  In using this combination – technology and project-based learning – a new relationship grows between the teacher and student.  The teacher no longer must be a master of the ever-changing technological knowledge base but rather the “facilitators of learning” (Sumrall 1999).  Teachers guide project implementation yet they can still learn a great deal from the students.  The author also recognizes the teachers’ lack of time to develop a new set of skills.  Thus, motivation for teachers to use the technology would require short and focused training that could be used in a variety of settings.  The primary theme of the article was how do we convince teachers that using computers and the internet can and do augment the learning process.  The author’s perspective definitely fell within the realm of a problem-centered or “project-centered” approach where students design their own coursework for the benefit of learning.  I found the section on Funding interesting in that it took many partners in action to implement such a project.  Moreover, Autodesk supplied not only the software but the consultation on application development.


Sumrall, K. (1999). Making the Connection between Technology and Environmental Education,” in New Directions in Education Technology, Volume 13, No. 2, September 1999, pp. 68-72.