Online PBL Projects for Elementary Students

Online learning has so many options available for our students. However, it’s very easy to get into the worksheet trap. Rather than share fill-in worksheets with our students during online learning, try some online project-based learning projects for elementary students. To begin, these online PBL projects help students problem-solve, think critically, practice creativity, and collaborate with their peers. Here are some online PBL projects for elementary students you can try in your online learning classroom. 

If you're teaching your students through distance learning this year, online PBL projects is a great option! Elementary students can practice critical thinking, independence, and so many other skills! Check out the resources in this post to get started!

Design a House

Using online PBL projects in Math makes learning so relevant for your students. First, one of my favorite projects to reinforce area and perimeter concepts is to have students design their own house.

First, students place furniture in a house. Then, they determine the area by estimating the squares remaining on the grid after their furniture is placed. Students also determine the perimeter related to their designs and answer questions related to the area. I’ve also provided extra examples of pre-decorated rooms with questions. These are differentiated. You can read more about this activity in the blog post, Teaching Area using Applied Math.

The design a house unit comes complete with everything you need to use this online PBL project with your students. 

  • house layout grid without rooms 
  • house layout with predesigned rooms for students to estimate the area & perimeter
  • color & black and white cut-out furniture
  • versions in feet, meters, & generic “units”
  • critical thinking questions related to finding area, perimeter, and estimating area
  • leveled worksheet with different houses and degrees of complexity

Design a Zoo

You can bring in science to your online PBL projects with this engaging ecosystem project.

Not only does this project use science, it also integrates perimeter, geometry, and STEM learning. Using research and design elements, students design and build their own ecosystem zoo. 

Of course, the unit comes with everything you need to integrate multiple skills and content areas. This differentiated research allows students to research specific animals and collaborate with one another in the classroom.

The project includes resources to:

  • Research ecosystems and/or specific animals
  • Pass a “licensing test” to build the zoo for the animal and ecosystems
  • Design the zoo for animals and to house the ecosystem
  • Build the model of the zoo
  • Create a tour guide brochure

Overall, I love how the materials include differentiated grids and choices to focus on specific areas of math! Try this online PBL project with your students.

Genius Hour

I can’t bring up genius hour enough when it comes to online PBL projects. First, Genius Hour is a student-led project where your learners get to explore their own passions. Genius Hour starts with a question. Then students research their questions using online and print resources. They may reach out virtually to mentors and other experts to help them. Afterward, students create something (a product) based on their research.

Genius Hour Product Examples:

  • Blogs
  • YouTube Channels or Vlogs
  • Websites
  • Physical Products (purses, scrunchies, artwork, dog houses)
  • Slide or PowerPoint presentations
  • Books
  • Posters

Genius Hour is the ultimate open-ended online PBL project. I recommend starting with a directed, scaffolded project like the ones mentioned above to teach students time and project management skills and to begin to foster independence. 

Overall, these online PBL projects for elementary students are perfect for online learning. Share these projects with your students through Google Classroom or Seesaw. All of the projects also can be distributed in paper form for distance learning without computer access or for classrooms back in session for in-person learning.

PBL Toolkit & Resources

John Spencer has a great blog post on his site that describes in great detail how to make project-based learning a reality in a distance learning environment. You can read that post here. In the post, he offers for free a Project-Based Learning Toolkit. I have no affiliation but found this to be a very valuable resource.

Another great resource is from April of Performing in Education. While this post, Project-Based Learning: Start Here doesn’t specifically detail PBL online, it does detail how to get started, managing it, planning it, differentiating it, and assessing. She also offers a free resource to help you plan! You can check that blog post out here.

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