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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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Vicky Sedgwick's picture
Vicky Sedgwick
K-8 Computer Teacher from Southern California

In the 1st Oil Spill webcast from Teachers Teaching Teachers there is some discussion of math & the oil spill at about 20:50. Maybe do something with cleanup efforts and how long they would predict it would take based on estimates of how much can be cleaned up with existing equipment? Do some graphing of how much oil by day?

Melinda Turner's picture
Melinda Turner
Sixth Grade Mathematics Teacher from Tazewell, TN

Graphing is a great idea!  As a technology teacher, Vicky, is there a computer program that would interest the students (for graphing)?  I would love a good online (and free) program.  We have a Math lab at my school.

Vicky Sedgwick's picture
Vicky Sedgwick
K-8 Computer Teacher from Southern California

Google Spreadsheets would be great because they could collaborate on a graph together or you could use Google Forms to ask for data that would then build the graph. You need google accounts (at least one for you) or Google Apps for Education for this.

Or Create A Graph - no accounts needed on this one.

I typically use Excel or Google Spreadsheets with my Middle School students.

Melinda Turner's picture
Melinda Turner
Sixth Grade Mathematics Teacher from Tazewell, TN

I love the question posed during the webinar.  The question made me think.  I will definitely use this question to kick off my project.

Jane Krauss's picture
Jane Krauss
Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

Riffing off Melinda's idea of "Whose Mess Is It?" I wonder if middle schoolers might track their fuel consumption for one week and draw some conclusions about consumer demand and their role as consumers. They could track:Miles ridden in a car and associated fuel consumption, number of plastic bottles (and other petroleum-derived) products purchased, "fuel miles" their foods travel to get to them (Mexican tomatoes in winter for instance).

NT Malia's picture
NT Malia
Secondary English-Lanugage Arts Teacher

"Americans consume 10,000 gallons of oil a second -- three gallons per person per day. Where does it come from and where is it taking us?" Lisa Margonelli

I would like the students to ponder and start a discussion around this quote from author Lisa Margonelli's book Oil on the Brain.  I would like the students to investigate our dependance on oil. 

Vicky Sedgwick's picture
Vicky Sedgwick
K-8 Computer Teacher from Southern California

In some ways, I think I have it easier than other teachers in making this issue relevant. We're not in the south or on the gulf but my school is in Southern California and our students spend a lot of time at the beach.

I envison starting off with questions on how many of my students spent time at the beach during the summer and I would guess it will be 100%. I would then show pictures of closed beaches in the gulf and hopefully a podcast or blog post or video from a student near their age and their thoughts on the closed beaches. Then, I would want my students to react to how it would make them feel if their beaches were closed due to an oil spill. Historically this did happen to some Southern California beaches in 1969 and we do sometimes have beach closures due to other pollutants. An oil spill is also a future possibility again if off-shore drilling is allowed to resume off our coast which is a current issue. A good question for them to answer might be What can you do to prevent this type of disaster from happening here?

denise Oppenhagen's picture

We live in Virginia where the Governor wants to start drilling off the shore of Virginia Beach.  It will be very relevant.

Florence Duarte's picture

I teach 8th grade science in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Definetly a beach-community. In addition to the beach being the main source of recreation and tourism, several of our students come from families that work in the offshore oil-drilling business here in Brazil - The ocean is our main source of petroleum and there is a lot of talk in the media about the "pre-salt" -very deep- oil reservoirs that ave been discovered recently. I guess I could start by showing them some pictures or movies of affected beaches and mangrove estuaries along the gulf shore and ask them if they have ever seen any beaches or coastal areas affected by petroleum close to their homes or if they know someone that has... I would also bring some newpaper articles that describe these new reservoirs right off the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro...could they imagine if an accident of such magnitude happened here, what the consequences might be....?

Jason's picture
9-12 At-Risk Social Studies Teacher
  • Estimation -
    for 3rd - 8th students to get an idea of the size

  • Perimeter,
    area, and volume
     - Help students
    to find the perimeter, area, and volume of the oil spill

  • Graphs - Help students
    to read, understand, and interpret graphs of how big the oil spill is. 

  • Coordinate
    plane, ploting points, Latitude and Longitude
    for 6th
    - Geometry
    to track the location of the oil spill

  • Finances,
    Money, Stock Market
     - Help students
    to determine the cost of the oil spill


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