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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

PBL Camp: Grades 9-12 (Week 1)

PBL Camp: Grades 9-12 (Week 1)

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
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How will you make the oil spill relevant to your students? This is our brainstorming thread. Any and all ideas and thoughts welcome!

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DJ Meincke's picture
DJ Meincke
Chemistry and Science Teacher in Bangkok

My students and I are literally on the other side of the world from the spill. I am not aware of what the Thai newspapers are reporting about the spill, but the English language papers are not covering much. I suppose one way to start would be for the students to do an assignment on the issues using the web, But assigning this without first "selling" the project - building the students enthusiasm - would result in a half-hearted student attempts.

I think I would try to collect TV clips of the spill. As a science and chemistry teacher, I would be focusing on the environmental impact. I would try to get TV clips that show the birds, fish, and animals covered with oil and that show the beaches. I would consider using footage from the Exxon Valdez spill.

I would also consider as a project focus something along the lines of what would need to be prepared if this happened off the coast of Thailand or in one of the rivers. Since much of the economy of Thailand is based on the ocean (fishing, fish-farming, tourism), students could estimate the impact of a spill based on how other incidents affected the economy (the tsunami of 2004 or the recent "terrorism" by a group counter to the current government - that was interesting to live through, at least one student at my school lost his home and one can still see bullet holes in the upscale shopping malls).

In general, an oil spill project would be a tougher "sell" than some of my other projects, such as designing the best bubble-blowing solution (that was an easy sell!).

Eric Anderson's picture
Eric Anderson
Special Ed Teacher for students with emotional and behavioral disorders

I'm approaching this from a social studies perspective and would try to engage students by using as many human stories as possible. Video, like DJ suggests would be helpful along with photo sites The Big Picture (www.boston.com/bigpicture). I would also connect the spill damage to local bodies of water. What would it mean if an oil spill took place on Lake Ontario?

Paul Allison's picture
Paul Allison
English, East-West Sch of Int'l Studies & Tech Liaison, NYC Writing Project

I'm thinking that I want to start with questions. After collecting what we already know about the spill in a class, I want to find out what questions the students have. I'm not sure the oil spill will come up if I allow an open 10 Self / 10 World Questions (as described by James A. Beane in Curriculum Integration - http://books.google.com/books?id=ZnaBQgAACAAJ&dq=inauthor%3A%22James%20A... . Still I'm thinking to start in this open way, see it it comes up -- or better yet, make clear that I will be asking questions too, and I will ask questions about the Gulf. In short, I think we need to start with students' questions.

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