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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

PBL Camp: Grades 3-5 (Week 1)

PBL Camp: Grades 3-5 (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 for the upper elementary group. Any and all ideas and thoughts welcome!

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Cindy Kerr's picture

Like many of you, I plan to make this relevant to my students (K-4) through the study of water. Last year we focused on our local watershed so they have a basic knowledge of our water, ecosystem, conservation and pollution. We are not near the Gulf as we live in central Ohio. We have used a map to trace the path of water from our creeks to the Ohio River, on to the Mississippi and to the Gulf. The students have acknowledged that the pollutants we place in our watershed may end up in the Gulf. So I am hoping the students can personalize the oil mess with a question like, What if one day the water flow reversed and the oil flowed to our nearby Olentangy River?
After we make a mind map of the possible changes to our ecosystem we might also do the following activities:
I like the ideas of aquariums that are clean vs the polluted versions to view. We have a microscope in our room that displays the slide image on a computer. I will ask students to use their art skills (I teach arts integration) to observe and draw the microscopic organisms in clean and polluted water. We can post the drawings and discuss the differences and why they are different.

We will make marbled paper by dropping diluted oil paint onto a pool of water in a shallow tray. Stir with a fork or comb. Lightly lay a sheet of paper on top of the color. The paper will absorb the floating color. Lay to dry. (This can also be done using cooking oil and mixing with liquid watercolor). We can use the paper to write letters to the EPA or our congressmen to ask for better laws governing our natural resources.

We will probably talk about viscosity (oil vs water) , make viscosity wands and wonder which is easier for animal and plant life to swim or absorb food in and why; immiscible and miscible liquids (oil on bird feathers not washing off with water).
I found several simple activities that would engage young students and start them thinking about the issues in Super Science Concoctions: 50 Mysterious Mixtures for Fabulous Fun by Jill Frankel Houser.(1997). Williamson Publishing Co. ISBN 1-885593-02-3

I purchased a CD this week with music about water, the tides, Ocean animals, etc. written to the tunes of well-known songs. I think I might ask students to work collaboratively and respond to their concerns for the animal life, plant life or water in the form of a poem, song, or tableau.

Since I work with the entire school some of these activities are better for the upper grades and some for the lower grades.
I am just tossing out some possibilities.

KarenG's picture
3rd grade teacher in Doha, Qatar

I would like to join the group with Michelle, Donna and Cally on a project for the 3rd grade. I teach 3rd grade and am also a librarian media specialist. We have an animal unit also here so working with that general topic is perfect.

Vickie Weiss's picture
Vickie Weiss
Multiage teacher (4th-5th) from Grand Blanc, Michigan

I really enjoy all the ideas I have read.

Being in Michigan, I am thinking of our water issues, too. Perhaps I will have the students brainstorm a list of Water Woes around the world...the oil spill, lack of water in some countries, contaminated water, threat of the Asian carp in our Lake Michigan, etc.

They could choose an area of interest and work in teams to prepare for a pretend "water symposium" by preparing a media presentation describing the problem and thinking of ways to reduce/solve the issue.

The April issue of National Geographic would be a great resource to kick-off their thinking.

KarenG's picture
3rd grade teacher in Doha, Qatar

That's great! Are you possibly the same Michelle looking at working with Cally and Donna? I wasn't sure.
Hope you're having a great vacation - where are you traveling?

Lori Smith's picture
Lori Smith
First Year Teacher in Colorado

I am not sure how we are to find our small niches but I am interested in approaching this PBL with an interest in learning about renewable and non renewable resources(specifically Oceans energies-petroleum, methane, solar, wind, and wave), managing those resources and what is in our future in regards to the impact we make on Earth's resources both renewable and non. And I would like to tie in our local communities environment=specifically in mine- how mining has affected our landscape.
Is anyone interested in this strand and have something to add to it? This thing could get so big and I have a hard time keeping things concise and to the point-so any advice is terrific and gladly accepted!

Michelle Sais Hildebrandt's picture
Michelle Sais Hildebrandt
Third Grade Teacher

This topic is already relevant to my students because we live on the Gulf Coast side of Florida. We could brainstorm how it will effect our coast from the ocean life to the beach life. We can even compare to see if our tourism has went down and how it will effect our economy.

Debbie Torres's picture

I will make the oil spill relevant in many ways. My students live 15 minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico. I will meet them at Pine Island beach for a class picnic in August. While at the beach we can find out if there is evidence of the oil spill. It is relevant to my studens because many of my students spend time at Pine Island Beach on the weekends. My students can also find how many miles away the spill is away from area.

Teresa McNeil's picture

I will be meeting my students in August @ Pine Island Park, located on the Gulf of Mexico. We'll have a cook-out, but also be looking for various species of animals. We'll be keeping an eye on the water, looking for evidence of oil in the water. These students live very close to where the oil is beginning to wash ashore Many of their mothers and fathers depend on the Gulf for their livelihoods.

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