Student Voices, Collaboration, Real-World Connections
The Centennial High School Learning Studio in Howard County completely transformed the idea of traditional teaching and learning with their Quarter 2 project on climate change. Students worked in groups with at least one student from every STEM discipline represented: the science students provided background on climate change, the technology students built the flash websites, the engineering students assisted in project management and design process of the project, and math students graphed data showing changes in global temperatures and CO2 levels over time. Then, in the culmination of the project, the student groups had to present and defend their findings—just like a climate change conference that an actual scientist might attend.
Engaging Community STEM Experts on Local Environmental Issues
In Anne Arundel County, Central Middle School’s 8th grade team deepened their partnership with Matt Klimoski, the Environmental Division Director at the U.S. Naval Academy. He worked with students to bridge the gap between the standard curriculum and the real-world knowledge and skills that students needed to continue working on this year’s Learning Challenge. Mr. Klimoski, who is both a Central Middle School parent and a coach at the school, provided expert knowledge on the Chesapeake watershed. Drawing on local examples to illustrate how construction and soil-run off affects the Bay, he explained engineering solutions to solve run-off problems, discussing pros and cons of each design. Mr. Klimoski also talked with students about the structure, function, and design of a rain garden located in a nearby Nature Center, which connects to the Studio’s goal of creating a rain garden by the end of the year for their school.
Co-Teaching, Outdoor Classrooms, Real-life Connections
At Old Mill Middle School in Anne Arundel County, Melissa Dantoni’s 6th grade science class. Ms. Dantoni was joined by her team member Tim Swann, Media Specialist, who co-taught the class on human impact on the environment. School structure supported the teachers’ desire to divide responsibilities in the classroom, allowing for more opportunities for student voices to be heard and questions to be answered during the outdoor exploration. The students worked in teams to complete a survey of the environment surrounding their school, a resource they found from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Students evaluated the runoff, erosion, and biodiversity of the environment surrounding the school grounds. Students suggested a school-wide clean-up day as a result of their findings in the field.
Out in the Field
Eric Brown de Coulston, from NASA and educational consultant Izolda “The Soil Lady” Trahktenberg collaborated with the Walker Mill Middle School Learning Studio in Prince George’s County to investigate the effect of humans on water systems. The scientists, students, and their teachers went to Anacostia Park and conducted water quality testing on the Anacostia River. The sixty students conducted field experiments in water transparency, pH, temperature and electrical conductivity. They also checked for cloud cover and cloud type. They sampled the river and completed all of the experiments themselves after having practiced the science in a practice field day at the school last week. This field trip was particularly exciting and engaging for the students as it was the first experiment they had ever conducted out in the field. Additionally, the Learning Studio teachers plan to conduct the same experiments on the Potomac River and on the Chesapeake Bay with their students.