Geography teacher Sara Paster was explaining to students their last project of the school year.

“You need to think about, ‘What are some problems?” Paster said as she roamed around the classroom.

These seventh graders have to come up with something that will enhance people’s lives in Scituate, a coastal town on the South Shore. The project has to be new, sustainable and stay within Scituate’s regulations.

“What are some potential problems currently Scituate faces? What’s a really quick answer that everyone faces at some point?” Paster asked.

A boy’s hand shot up.

“Brown water,” he said.

“Thank you, brown water,” Paster said. “But what are other things? Maybe elderly? What do they face? Young people? People with low incomes?”

The Gates Middle School in Scituate adopted project based-learning a few years ago in an effort to make lessons more relevant to students. Educators argue the skills developed doing projects — critical thinking, public speaking, teamwork — are central to the jobs of the future.

At least a dozen districts around the state, including Boston, are trying the approach or plan to in the future. Scituate seems to have made the biggest commitment to this model, even designing its new school building to make it easier for kids to work in teams and later present their work.

The students do most of their brainstorming in groups. There is no seating here for lone bookworms. Students sit together at four-person tables and talk through their ideas.

“I think it’s nice because you get to work in a group,” said a 13-year-old boy planning to restore the sea walls in Scituate for his project. “You don’t have to just sit in a classroom. You can go out in a hallway and work together. And we have more independence.”

According to teachers, parents were initially concerned that these projects would lead to more work for parents, but their biggest concern has been about the group work.

“They’re also concerned because their child is to be working with others, and those others are going to impact their A-student’s grade, because their student is concerned that the other people will impact their grade,” English teacher Ruth Yasin explained.

For this project, students will have to write a proposal and present the project in public. Among other things, they’ll learn about statistics, scale drawings, city planning, sustainability, and how to read dense documents. The grade will count toward math, science, English and geography classes.

Not all class time is devoted to projects. Math is still mostly taught in the traditional way, which some students complain about. Teachers say that when they use projects in a lesson, they get better work.

Paster said since she started teaching this way, she’s never had a student fail to do an assignment.

“They always turn something in,” she said. “Everyone always has a project at the end because they’re standing in front of the class.”

That kind of engagement is driving schools to consider adopting project-based learning. Now that federal laws allow schools to be judged on other measures besides test grades, more schools in Massachusetts may be willing to try this approach to teaching.

Our coverage of K-12 education is made possible with support from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.