Three Phases

Three Phases of The Project Approach

Key features of The Project Approach

Projects are long-term investigations that are carried out over weeks or months. Projects have a structure to guide teachers, children and families on their journey. A project has three phases: Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III. Each phase is comprised of Five Structural Features.

Phase I is all about getting started and includes an exploration around possible topics. The teacher provides provocations to the children. These "messing a round with a possible topic" activities enable the teacher to gauge the children’s level of interest and potential of the topic to be worthy of investigating. Teachers will also complete an anticipatory project webbing—where the teacher assesses the topic’s potential for developing child growth and learning around particular concepts, skills and understandings.

Beginning the Camera Project: Phase I

by Dai Childress and Anna Perez

A project by 3-5 year old children at United Inner City Services, Home of St. Mark Child & Family Development Center

"The children in our class frequently talk about taking pictures and asking teachers to take their pictures. We observed several children dressing up and using props then pretending to be at a photo shoot. We found the children to be knowledgeable about cell phones and iPad cameras but they wanted to know about other types and how cameras work. Their questions at first centered around camera parts, types and where to get them. We created a KWL Chart and Web to help us reflect and plan our next move."

Phase II includes the active investigation of the topic. Children’s prior knowledge and initial questions are gathered. Fieldwork and discussion build interest and provide opportunities for research. Ongoing questions are gathered and learning experiences tailored to helping children uncover answers.

Many project-related activities take place during Phase II. In particular, children will spend a great deal of time in dramatic plan, creating representations and attending field site visits or engaging with expert visitors to gain more knowledge about the topic. As children play and communicate about their ideas, they begin to form answers to their questions and new ones are likely to come about.

Developing the Camera Project: Phase II

"We collected a variety of cameras, books and videos for the children to explore. The children took cameras apart to learn about the parts. Mr. Hallock, a professional photographer, came to visit and answered all of the questions the children had prepared. They learned a lot about the different types of cameras he used and how he decides what pictures to take and what camera to use."

Phase III includes the planning and enacting of the culminating project event; where children decide how and to whom they will present their learning.

Concluding the Camera Project: Phase III

"The variety of experiences the children had learning about the camera help them to be prepared for the next experience. All the children have been given a personal disposable camera to take home. We can wait to see their pictures."

Reflecting on Project Work

At the end of projects, teachers often complete a final reflection to gauge the teaching and learning experiences. The Young Investigators book provides helpful and challenging questions for teachers to reflect upon, such as, "Were children absorbed and engrossed in their work?", "Did tasks require children to stretch their thinking and social skills in order to be successful?", and "Did you, as a teacher, facilitate and guide children's work?" (Helm & Katz, 2014, p. 29 of the Project Planning Journal).

Teacher Reflection

"I feel the camera project was a great decision. It took us awhile to make a decision but waiting was the right thing to do. Project work is not about me but about the children. The children have been excited and empowered to share their new-found knowledge and skills about cameras."

Project Phases Resources

The Project Planning Journal found in Young Investigators (Helm & Katz, 2014) guides teachers through the process of planning during each phase. It is also available as a free download from Teachers College Press.

Webpage article by Karrie Snider updated 7-10-2017