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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Project-Based Learning and the Gulf Oil Spill

Eric Brunsell

Asst Professor of Science Education @ UW-Oshkosh

Edutopia's PBL Boot Camp started today, and I thought that I would provide some resources to get you thinking...

Messing About

Good projects revolve around important questions. However, good questions are not always easy to generate...especially in a vacuum. How many times have students drawn a blank when confronted with the "freedom" to study anything they want for a school project? Often, it is helpful to have students "mess about" with information before you ask them to brainstorm questions.

(Yes, I know that middle school students have their own definition for messing about.)

Many of the resources below can provide a great starting point for short and long term projects.


The old saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words," has a lot of merit. A good picture can often tell a story, provoke emotions, or generate questions. The use of images and visual representations is critically important in science. Visual representations can also quickly convey very complicated information. We are constantly bombarded by infographics that describe scientific information. How often do we ask our students to analyze or create an infographic?

What could our students do with these complicated infographics?

Other Oil Spill Resources

How Big is the Oil Spill? The current estimate is 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day (1 barrel = 42 gallons).

Comments (13)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate

Great post and terrific resources, Eric!

PBL Campers: Eric is one of several advisers who will be sharing expertise with you during camp. His specialty is science and STEM, and he'll be taking an active role in the discussions in our PBL group. Take advantage of his know-how by jumping into these discussions and asking him to help you figure out science-related aspects of project planning.

Thanks again, Eric!


Cheryl Davis's picture
Cheryl Davis
District Curriculum & Instruction Technology Specialist

Thank you for the additional resources!  I have been working on a
challenge-based lesson idea for teachers also called "An Oil Crisis
Challenge".  I have the teacher lesson idea up in a Google Site (https://sites.google.com/site/oilslickwiki/) Teachers can use this site template to have students build their own
"oil slick wiki" to follow, understand and teach about the environment
disaster.  The idea is to have this lesson student driven. I used resources found by searching the new C -SPAN Video Library
where students can search for, create clips, embed and add to a wiki. 
I appreciate your additional ideas and resources. This topic is one
that will certainly continue to be a part of classroom discussions as
schools re-open in the fall and we have our students take up the
challenge of dealing with how our nation deals with environmental
issues and a crisis such as this.

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