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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

PBL Camp: Grades 6-8 (Week 1)

PBL Camp: Grades 6-8 (Week 1)

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How will you make the oil spill relevant to your students? This is our brainstorming thread for the middle school community. Any and all ideas and thoughts welcome!

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Chris Delaney-Haynes's picture

Go to Thinkfinity.org
Search for oil spill (resources)
http://www.thinkfinity.org/oil_spill_classroom_resources
This will take you to Science Netlinks, give you background info on the spill and provide online tools, podcasts, and videos for student use
http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/oilspill/
Being in the SW mountains of Colorado, lets make a connection first by determining what the Gulf provides for us. As a group we can categorize topics and students can then determine their interests, develop a plan to study and present their findings.

Jeffrey Decker's picture

With Atlantic hurricane season upon us, there is an opportunity to see how these amazing storms will interact with the spill. The spill will also give insights into ocean currents that will be trackable in real time via satellite.

Daniela Arghir's picture
Daniela Arghir
teacher of English as a foreign language in Sibiu, Romania

[quote]Coming from a lower SES community, many of my students do not have the experience of a trip to the beach.  Lots of visual images and videos can remedy that.  I want the students to understand the far-reaching effects of this natural disaster and to understand what people living on the gulf coast are dealing with.  Then we could connect to other diasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti and even hurricane Katrina.  I want students to become environmentally aware and to understand that they have a responsibility to save, or at least take care of, the world they live in. [/quote]
This is pretty much everything that I can also say about my students (we live in the middle of Romania, in a city surrounded by mountains), applying it to our local situation - I would start with the floods here in Romania for the time being.
The main focus then would be rescuing oiled birds, which could be paralleled to caring for endangered animals in our area.

Elizabeth Davidson's picture
Elizabeth Davidson
High School Math Teacher

I teach in an isolated and high poverty area in Arizona that is landlocked; however, I know some students have visited the nearest coastal town about 100 miles away in Mexico. These students are very visual and artistic, so I am going to try to design a project to leverage those two strengths. I'm planning to show various film footage.

I REALLY would like them to quickly experience the world and see "the bigger picture" RIGHT NOW, but I find I'm more successful when I take baby steps. I just try to remember Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs.

Tennille's picture
Tennille
Middle school math department from Brooklyn, NY

How will this oil spill affect the economy of the cities of the Gulf, or in Louisiana?
How will this oil spill affect the restaurant businesses in Louisiana, include graphing of profit changes?

Science
How will the oil spill disaster affect the evolution of ocean life?

Karen McMillan's picture
Karen McMillan
Seventh Grade Teacher from Pleasant Hill, CA

I teach at a Catholic school in Northern California and it seems to me that this would make for a terrific service learning project for my seventh graders. First, they would need background information on the disaster itself: how did it start, why did it last so long, what impact is it having on the Gulf region? Then I need to make it personal to them. What part do they play as consumers in the need for oil? Can they have an impact on future oil spills by decreasing their demand?

I think a trip to the beach would definitely be in order, since we're not that far from the coast. We could arrange to work with the Park Service, perhaps, or the Sierra Club, and have a clean-up at the beach day. I don't know if we'd be allowed to do this, but a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium would be perfect! I imagine they could teach us more about the impact oil has on the ocean's inhabitants.

As for the service aspect, I would like to also see us get involved in supporting another school or community in the Gulf region that has been affected by this.

One last thought...as a history teacher, I would definitely want to include a look back at the Exxon Valdez disaster. Perhaps compare the reactions of the two companies and the impacts on the areas involved.

Michelle Harrison's picture

I teach science in a rural area on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The students here would be interested in the oil spill and how it might affect their lives. In the classroom I can see do a modeling of the spill and the way it is impossible to truly remove all the oil, how the damage has a domino effect on the environment. Besides the yuk factor of going to the beach and stepping in it, how it can shut down the economy of our area and how the effects are long standing.
I also think having them do a carbon footprint reinforces their own part in things, it allows them to make choices and empowers them through potential changes they may make.

Connie's picture

Another thought is having them compare a gallon of milk to the oil spill. Students could figure out how many gallons fit into a classroom. You could break this down into days or hours.

Another point is what we see on t.v. and how does that compare to our world. How big is the pipe the oil is coming out of? How does it look on t.v. and can students make a model of it?

Carl B. Hansen's picture

This is a late post, because I have been struggling with a focus on local connections. Some ideas:
Where does our energy come from? What is the dollar cost to your family? What is the environmental cost, both local and global? Do you have ideas to help save energy, how do you think that might help?
Do catastrophes in the energy supply line happen often? What are examples of energy disasters? What has been done in the past to address them? Did it work? Why or why not? How do you know? What can we do to help?
How do you think the oil spill will affect families that depend on the ocean for food and work? What can we do to help them?
How do you think oil will affect the food web? What observations can you make? What are scientist finding? What do you think we can do to help?
What ideas do you have for separating oil from water? Set up a scale experiment. Do you think this might work on a large scale? Why or why not?
How do you think the oil spill will affect you? Our community?

Jeffrey Decker's picture

Michelle...I like the idea of students modeling the spill. I taught for 4 years in Salisbury MD. Love the Eastern Shore. A spill in your area would be also be unthinkable. Are you going to let the students come up with their own models or are you going to have that ready to roll as a "grabber"?

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