Project based learning (PBL) isn't new by any means, yet many teachers have yet to try it out in their own classrooms despite its many benefits. If you teach high school science or social studies, the New York Hall of Science has created a great (and ready to implement!) project.
It's called "Design it Clean: The Water Filter Challenge." Here's the deal (directly from the project description): Students work in teams to develop water filters that are dependable, affordable, and can provide clean water for specific communities in the real world. Students are challenged to learn about a region where people lack access to clean water, and to design and build a working solution. They must ensure that their solutions align with the needs of the community, culture, environment, and local government. They will also present their water filtration prototypes, along with relevant data, to adults playing the roles of local end users, government officials, aid workers, venture capitalists, and other key stakeholders.
My colleague and I used Design It Clean as our first project of the year at our PBL school. Our 8th-12th graders were deeply engaged in defining problems, designing solutions, building prototypes, researching communities, and planning presentations. When students presented their solutions at our Open House, attendees were impressed with the students' ability to explain their designs and how their engineering decisions were based on the research they completed about the community they were serving.
If you're new to PBL, Design It Clean is a great place to start. The project plans are detailed, standards-aligned, and include a step-by-step teaching guide. All of the student handouts are included as well. Best of all, Design It Clean addresses all of the essential elements of great PBL: significant content, 21st century skills, in-depth inquiry, driving questions, a need to know, voice and choice, revision and reflection, a public audience. Check it out!
Design It Clean: The Water Filter Challenge