Prince George’s County Teachers Develop Collaborative STEM Learning Opportunities For Their Students
Nearly 40 teachers from Prince George’s County Public Schools, Maryland met in late June for a 3-day, NCTAF-facilitated design session for the Learning Studios program. The inter-disciplinary teams of teachers reflected on the past year and began developing projects for their students for the upcoming year. Teachers collaborated with scientists from NASA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by linking the Maryland state curriculum to current STEM issues to prepare students for the 21st Century workforce.
Below are summaries of what each Prince George’s County Learning Studio plans to investigate over the course of the 2012-2013 school year:
Gwynn Park High School: In their third year as a Learning Studio, the team from Gwynn Park High School will lead their students in an exploration of “Dream and Build The Next Cool Tool: What do we need to invent to conduct scientific discoveries and why?” The team will use technology as a lens through which to examine current STEM issues within each of their disciplines. During the first quarter of the year students will design a controlled scientific experiment to test the effect of choline on the prevention of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. To increase authenticity, a research scientist from NIH will visit the school to critique students’ experimental designs and possibly incorporate students’ design(s) into her own research on Alzheimer’s. The students at the school’s Ecology Club will assist in the research when they plant, grow, and harvest kale. Then, the Food and Consumer Science students will cook the kale so the Biology class can determine the amount of chlorine present in the kale. In the subsequent quarters students will continue their work on technological research tools in the following areas: Military Technology, Food Technology, and Green Technology.
Gwynn Park Middle School: The team from Gwynn Park Middle School is in their first year of the project and decided to examine the question “how do we ensure access to clean water?” with their students over the course of the year. The teachers selected this theme because it had real world connections for their students: “Our school is located in the middle of Prince George’s County where many of our students still utilize well water as a sole means of water access. Due to this fact, we found it interesting to look at differences in water quality and its effect on the student population.” Students will analyze authentic NASA data from the region on water quality as well as conduct water quality tests of their own at different water sources in their local environment over the course of the year.
Bowie High School: Teaching a curriculum that focuses on energy, Bowie’s Learning Studio will lead their students in an examination of alternate energy sources. Last year the Bowie team worked with the same essential question of “How do chemical reactions produce energy?” but ran into problems getting materials for students to construct fuel cells. This year, with more thorough pre-planning, the team hopes to construct fuel cells and rockets with their students.
Walker Mill Middle School: Students at Walker Mill will explore “How can we improve the infrastructure of a city in order to maintain sustainability?” Teachers have been able to restructure the school week’s schedule to create a “STEM Friday” during which students immerse themselves in their exploration of this question. Each quarter, the studio teachers will work with their students to investigate a different area involving infrastructure and sustainability. The students’ work will culminate at the end of the year as they design a “Green City” of the future.
Central High School: This year at Central High School, students in the STEM cohort will continue studying “Is solar energy economical?” The teacher team has the ultimate goal of getting solar panels for their school, but students must first determine the comparative environmental impacts of solar versus their current energy source (gas), as well as cost differentials. The Central High School Learning Studio will collaborate with representatives from the Department of Energy and plan to present their plans to the community at the end of the year.
DuVal High School: The team from DuVal is going green this year with an investigation of “How can we use STEM knowledge to live more sustainably?” Teachers are employing a strong robotics tie-in as students will examine how to collect, analyze, and conserve Earth’s natural resources, as well as resources on other planets.
Greenbelt Middle School: The teacher team from Greenbelt chose to center their projects for the year on the rooftop garden at their new school building. Over the course of the year students will explore in each of their classes the following two-part question: “How does soil impact people, and how do people impact soil?” The team developed their projects with NASA soil scientists and will investigate the following content areas each quarter: the impact of diseases on soil, the impact of weathering and erosion on soil, and connections between soil and water. Students will have a strong social studies connection when they collect oral histories from local residents on changing land use in their community over time and its impact on the environment.
Click here to read more about Learning Studios.