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PBL Case Study #2: The Food Truck Project

Story of PBL Transformation: Community Food Truck

When I met with the 5th grade team at Park Maitland, a small school in Orlando, Florida, they were hoping project-based learning could better develop their students as community problem solvers. And while they didn’t immediately have a project, they had a strong concept:


The math teacher had brought the idea to the team after she saw food trucks popping up throughout the community.

The biggest challenge her team faced however was integrating their subject- specific content into the overall project idea.

I told them we could ‘hack’ an integrated project design in less than 90 minutes.

Clearly up for the challenge, they covered two desks with a giant piece of butcher paper, drew the outline of a truck, and wrote ‘Student Food Trucks’ in the middle. Each teacher took a different colored pen. In a flurry, they wrote down any content within their subject that could connect to the overall concept of food truck creation. The math teacher wrote down ‘budgets, costing, inventory, quantitative data, positive and negative numbers;’ the English/ Language Arts teacher wrote down ‘pitch,’ and ‘persuasive techniques;’ the Reading Specialist wrote down ‘case studies,’ ‘literature’ and ‘short stories.’

Next, they drew arrows connecting their content to relevant content from other subjects.

The final stage involved tuning their ideas. Together with the principal, tech coordinator, and a few other teachers, we used a structured protocol to ask clarifying/ probing questions designed to push their thinking and gain more clarity around specific project tasks.

The food truck project seed was officially planted; later that year, it would blossom.

How the ‘Food Truck Project’ transformed student learning at Park Maitland

The food truck project transformed 10 year old students into small business owners and master chefs; cooking meals, creating logos, drafting business plans, and working under the mentorship of local entrepreneurs in the community to design their own food trucks. One student, so taken by the project, used her food truck concept to help foster healthier, more sustainable eating patterns in the United States. Another student merged his passion for Dungeons and Dragons and ramen noodles to create a unique business concept featuring marketing by key DnD players.

The project transformed teaching as well.

To support her teaching team, Brett Carrier, the brilliant Language Arts Teacher, received bi-weekly group coaching with other international PBL practitioners to gain resources, share insights, and overcome specific challenges in delivering the project remotely.

“I used to think that you had to have all the answers BEFORE approaching someone about collaborating. Now, I realize the beauty of coming to the table with a simple question and letting everyone join in with the process. What you end up with is far more powerful than what you could ever come up with alone.” – Brett Carrier

On virtual ‘pitch day,’ with parents, entrepreneurs and community members all in attendance, students shared the professional plans for their trucks. In the same way an entrepreneur would pitch their concept for multi-million dollar investment, these young students used key data, community insights, professionally rendered designs, and projected profits to earn the funding they needed for their concepts.

But how to run the food truck project in a distance learning environment?

The 5th grade team didn’t let distance learning stop them from doing what’s best for kids. Students were still able to design their food trucks in shared platforms like ‘Google Sketch Up,’ ‘Adobe,’ and a series of ‘G Suite Tools.’

What’s your project idea?

Join the 2020-2021 training to design it, and gain a suite of virtual tools to make it come to life for your students. Early Bird Registration extended through August. Join the August PBL Training.

Brett Carrier

5th grade Language Arts Teacher/ Team Lead

“Due to the goals formulated within this dynamic PBL coaching group, my desire to incorporate project-based learning into every facet of instruction has grown from a flame to a wildly raging fire which has ignited my students, the ultimate victors, to shine.”

– Brett Carrier, Park Maitland (Find out more about Brett and how she integrates PBL in her classroom at

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Kyle Wagner
School Transformation and Project- Based Learning Coach

I coach school leaders on how to lead change and improve student learning through simple, innovative srategies and teaming structures.

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