Seventh Graders Conduct Sophisticated PBL Project To Practice Critical Skills

The seventh grade science class at Briggs Middle School in Eugene, Oregon provides an excellent and highly creative example of learning and practicing the critical skills through a project involving their school’s environment.

During the winter months from December 2011 until March 2012, the seventh grade students were faced with classroom temperatures in excess of ninety degrees and persistent feelings of drowsiness. Since this was a science class, the students decided to find out why this was happening and try to make some suggestions to fix the problem.

Guided by their science teacher, the students developed a hypothesis that the problem might be excess temperatures and high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) leading to negative moods, poor work ethic, and feelings of drowsiness.

From March 5 through April 5, 2012, the students, working in teams, collected and recorded temperature and CO2 levels twice daily in six different classrooms. They selected Vernier LabQuest technology to provide sensors and recording capabilities.

The student findings revealed consistently higher temperatures measured in classrooms with the sensitive Vernier equipment than those displayed by the Nomad temperature thermometers. Additionally the findings revealed higher than normal CO2 levels in classrooms. The students concluded that the high temperatures and CO2 levels were negatively affecting student learning and that steps could be taken to solve the problem.

Accordingly, the students made three recommendations:

• Teachers should keep the doors and windows open to increase ventilation;
• The air return vents in each room should be routinely cleaned;
• All ducts and other vents should be inspected and cleaned;
• A follow up study should be conducted annually to check air quality;
• The study should be replicated at other District schools;
• The school should develop a partnership with the University of Oregon school of architecture for future environmental studies.

The students presented their findings, conclusions and recommendations both in written form as well as making an oral presentation to the school board.

This example is an example of teaching the critical skills at its finest. The project was written up in detail and presented to the Oregon State Department of Education as well as being available on the internet for other schools to access and replicate.

Each of the critical skills was practiced in depth throughout this project based learning exercise:

Communications – students had to report in writing and orally to a sophisticated audience;

Production – the idea was to solve the problem about high temperatures in the classrooms and student drowsiness during class. This problem was solved.

Information – students applied discipline and consistency in collecting relevant temperature and CO2 data on a routine basis;

Analysis – students ensured that their data was accurate and true before conducting their analysis and used graphs and spreadsheets to analyze and display their data so that the findings and conclusions were easy to see;

Interpersonal – students had to work in teams both as data collectors and as a whole class for data collection, analysis, and report writing;

Time Management – students had only six weeks to conduct the entire project;

Technology – students selected sensitive temperature and CO2 measurement equipment to collect their data, spreadsheet software to conduct their analysis, and Microsoft PowerPoint to present their report.

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