Podcast 51 – Project-Based Inquiry Questions for Our First Unit

“Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” Vaclav Havel

Let’s start taking steps forward. Today, I share eight project-based inquiry questions that could be used as an overarching focus to the first PERMIE KIDs unit. I say could because I am open to anyone else’s ideas and questions, including children’s questions.

From here on out, on Monday I’ll share something about the unit – the overarching question, common topics of inquiry that fall under the questions, outlines for lessons, and more – and I’ll be asking for the vote of the PERMIE KIDs community. This means that I not only want to hear from the educators, but from the children as well. It will take you less than 10 seconds to complete each week, but it may take you longer to have a conversation with your child, children, or students about how to vote. If you or your child wants to include a question for consideration by the community, you can either 1) post it as a comment in the show notes or 2) email me directly at

On Fridays, I’ll report back to the community about how we voted to proceed. That will be incorporated into the unit and we will proceed to the next step of designing a PERMIE KIDs education together the next week.

This is the first attempt, to the best of my knowledge, at this democratic approach to designing an educational program on such a large and diverse scale, so please be willing to stumble and recover from what are likely to be a few bumps along the way. Also, because this is the first attempt at this and the word about how to participate is still getting out, I am going to delay “finalizing” our choices of questions and putting up the survey for one week. This should allow people plenty of time to provide comments and pose additional questions. Then, next week you will be able to vote on the questions and by Friday, April 11th, I will be able to announce our consensus as a community about what question will be our guiding focus for the first unit.

The next week, we will repeat the same process with the next step which will be choosing as a community which are the most common topics that children want to explore under our question. This will give me guidance to then start developing lesson ideas (to be shared weekly and tweaked based on what the community says it needs/wants), identify foundational knowledge and skills needed to explore this idea, and pull together a variety of diverse resources that can be used to fit the needs of your child taking into account interest, readiness-level, maturity, and different ways of learning.


In the show today I cover:

  • PERMIE KIDs process
  • How your voice will matter and be heard
  • Why use a democratic process
  • 8 initial ideas for our first project-based inquiry unit: 1) What is an invention that you can create that is useful in your life?, 2) What are 2-3 skills you could learn within the next few months to improve your life?, 3) How can you transition to get 10% more of your dietary needs from local products?, 4) How can you transition to use 10% less non-renewable energy than you already use?, 5) What can you do to get more value from your labor?, 6) How can you convert your intellectual capital to other forms of value?, 7) How can you use a surplus in your life to improve your life, that of your family, neighborhood, or community?, 8) How can you develop and use social capital to better care for yourself, others, and/or the Earth?
  • How and when to vote


Additional Resources:

How to Reinvent Project Based Learning to Be More Meaningful article by MindShift

Projects vs. Project-Based Learning blog by FriEdTechnology

Democratic Schools directory and definition according to AERO’s Directory of Democratic Education

Institute of Democratic Education in America homepage

What Is Democratic Education? by Isaac Graves published at Yes! Magazine




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