Doing projects with kids is a great starting point for learning. But the goal should be for the authentic learning experience.
Following directions for an arts and crafts project, or following a recipe, is definitely great practice using reading and math. However, if it stops there, the opportunity for real authentic learning is lost. I don’t think we can state often enough that we are raising children to function in a world that we can’t possibly imagine. Many of the jobs they will hold in the future don’t exist yet. And more importantly, many of the jobs people hold today, will not exist in the future. The children we are educating today need to be able to think outside the box if they are going to have a chance to really succeed in the world they will live in as adults. Simply following directions to get from Point A to Point B, or repetitive drills filling in correct answers on a worksheet, is not going to prepare them for the future.
Following a recipe, or a set of instructions, should just be the starting point. The real authentic learning occurs when adults listen to what children are saying while they are working, and follow up on this discourse. Why just one cup of chocolate chips? What would happen if we used two cups? Do generic chocolate chips really taste the same as the more expensive Nestle brand? Can you taste the difference in the finished product? How can we test this?…
Sometimes adult prompting is needed to take the project to the authentic level. But often, just listening to children, really listening, provides the springboard to that authentic learning experience.