Teachers Team Up to Collaborate with The Boeing Co. and The U.S. Naval Academy
Just as the school year wrapped up for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, thirty teachers from three middle schools met for a NCTAF-facilitated three-day design session as part of NCTAF’s Learning Studios program. Teachers began the design session by reflecting on the STEM projects they implemented during the past school year. In particular, the teachers examined the degree to which students had opportunities to collaborate, express their own voice, and engage in authentic learning activities.
The teachers also had significant planning time to collaborate with representatives from the Boeing Corporation and the U.S. Naval Academy. The Naval Academy hosted the event, which overlapped with their own STEM Academy summer program for students. Not only were teachers able to observe students engage in authentic project-based learning opportunities ranging from robotics to flight simulators, they were also able to participate in these activities.
By the end of the three days, each teacher-team had developed an outline for their projects for the year. Below are summaries of what each Learning Studio in Anne Arundel County will implement with their students:
Central Middle School 6th Grade: Next year at Central, 6th graders will examine the question “How much do humans affect the environment?” This team of teachers, in their first year as part of NCTAF’s Learning Studios, selected this question to guide their work for the year because “We want students to make connections between their daily lives and their impact on the environment since we live on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.” Each teacher will feature this question prominently in her classroom and ask students to answer this question at the end of each quarter during the year. By the end of the year, the students will create a field guide on native/invasive species in the Chesapeake to share with the community.
Central Middle School 7th Grade: In their second year as part of NCTAF’s Learning Studios, the 7th grade teacher-team will lead their students as they study the question “How can we improve human and environmental impact on water quality?” In science class, students will study water quality and collect samples from a variety of sources in the community; in math they will analyze the data; in social studies they will do a comparative study of water globally; and in language arts they will develop the argumentative writing portion of the project.
Central Middle School 8th Grade: A team of 8th grade teachers selected “How do human actions impact Earth’s natural systems and resources?” as their essential question for the year. The team will launch the year’s work in an opening assembly at the beginning of the year which will feature a recap of last year’s project, when students planted native trees at their school to improve runoff and erosion conditions. This year will focus on reducing human impact on the Chesapeake Bay, culminating with end-of-year projects which students have a voice in selecting.
Lindale Middle School 6th Grade: For their first year as part of NCTAF’s Learning Studios, the team of 6th grade teachers will link their curriculum to the question “How do human actions impact human resources?” During the first quarter, students will calculate their carbon footprint and, in social studies, compare modern consumptive practices to those of ancient civilizations. During the following quarters, students will investigate ways to reduce their own carbon footprint, and they will end the year with a presentation to the community on steps that could be taken to improve local resource conservation.
Lindale Middle School 7-8th Grades: The teachers from the 7th and 8th Grade Lindale Learning Studio partnered with the Boeing Corporation to investigate the question “How does air traffic impact our community?” The school is located next to a major regional airport, so the teachers wanted to draw on students’ prior knowledge and curiosity about the airport. The team will launch the year by reviewing the outcomes from their project last year with the new students. Last year the teachers built air quality sensors under the guidance of a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy so they could collect authentic data directly from the air outside their school. This year the team will use the same air sensors to collect data in real time, and the students will raise color-coded flags to alert the community to the fluctuating levels of air quality.
Old Mill Middle School 6-8 Grades: After last year’s culminating school-wide festival, when students presented independent research projects on “Humans impact on the Chesapeake Bay,” the Learning Studio at Old Mill South decided to continue with a similar theme. This year students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades will investigate the question “How does water quality and availability sustain life?” Sixth grade students will use GPS devices to locate and document local water sources, taking advantage of the stream on the school grounds. Students will also conduct water quality tests to determine the health of the stream which will lead into a student-driven next step to improve the quality of the stream, such as a rain garden or tree-planting. The Old Mill South Learning Studio partners with the U.S. Naval Academy, and teachers are planning a trip to the campus to tour their water treatment facility at the beginning of the year. The trip will fuel discussions and serve as a comparative reference point for the rest of the students’ work on water quality for the year.