View Lessons by Subject > Science > Relevance
(Environmental): I co-teach a semester-long environmental science and policy course for 11th and 12th grade students. In this course, we have had one to two major assignments each semester that ask students to carefully examine a specific way in which they or their school impacts the environment (such as water use, transportation, electricity use, etc.), quantify their impact, and come up with a specific proposal to improve [the situation]…These projects have been excellent learning experiences for the students. They get to choose a topic that is interesting to them and study it deeply enough to understand the many environmental impacts of the activity (such as the impacts of driving cars, maintaining athletic fields, installing solar panels at the school). They gain an awareness of the many ways in which their lifestyles impact the environment. Most students have never been asked to think about environmental impact in this way, and they are often surprised to learn about their individual roles, and how easy it is to make important changes. They get excited about what they learn, share it with their friends and family, and also feel pride and accomplishment when their work results in a change at the school.
(Physics): An example of one school assignment that particularly motivated me was a lab we completed in Physics. During this lab we recorded data about a car rolling down and off a simple plastic ramp. We discussed various properties including velocity, acceleration, and inertia. The challenge: calculate the precise landing location of the car, place a metal can on it, and watch and see if your car lands in it. So why did I enjoy this one, average lab so much? It combined a subject that I really enjoy with a challenge, and allowed me to apply what I have been learning in the classroom to a real-life situation. It allowed me to look forward to more of these challenges in the future as well as to get excited about plenty of real-world situations that I will encounter after I graduate from high school.
(Biology): I find that projects/labs/activities that allow the students to integrate personal experience or knowledge into the project makes for a memorable and useful experience. In my 9th-grade biology classes I have the students create family pedigrees in which they choose a particular trait and follow that trait through the generations. The girls do research on their family and I encourage them to include pictures of family members in their pedigree. Girls like this project because it has a personal aspect and gives them a fair amount of freedom to be creative. They have to meet certain criteria, but have latitude in meeting those criteria. The girls also learn about genetics and how traits are passed down from one generation to the next.
(Chemistry): I am teaching AP chemistry for the first time this year. Instead of just focusing on the course material every day, I wanted to take the time for our girls to explore a research project. My goal was for them to conduct an experiment as a class, of their choosing, and then be assessed on their knowledge by a presentation…So, the students decided to create sunscreen. They each are making a batch, modifying the main chemical quantities, and then going to compare their sample with actual marketed sunscreens. They will evaluate their sunscreen production by looking at the absorption of the UV rays and seeing it in action by UV absorbing beads. Why I think this practice is effective is because I am asking the students to direct their own learning. They picked the topic and are taking it upon themselves to do the work. They are excited about the presentation side of it and have really had an authentic experience as a scientist. I also hear from them that they have talked about it at home. While some of the processes of data collection might be tedious, I think that the fact that they are coming in after school to work on this also illustrates to me that they want to do the project. What I have seen now is showing me that when I do a project like this, students love the hands-on approach, but also as AP kids, get to fully challenge themselves in a whole new way. They might understand the material, but when practicing it in real life, can see how much easier/harder it is to do it. In essence, they discover that while they can do the mathematical problems, they are not guaranteed to succeed in a laboratory/hand-on approach. nteresting to learn about my family and the past. I now know things I hadn’t known about my great-grandpa, grandpa, and grandma. I was in sixth grade when I did this project and I loved it, and I think future students would too.