NTEP II Fermilab LInC Online

Middle School Scenario

Student Pages
Index of Projects

Introduction: The eighth grade class at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Union City is joining Mr. Smith's fifth grade class at Edison Elementary School and Mr. Britton's class at Mohr Elementary School in Pleasanton to set up a "Risk" guide to help themselves and others make better choices when considering whether to engage in 'risky" behavior.

Beginning in elementary grades in California, students are expected to begin to learn statistics and probability in math and to take part in programs like DARE (Drug Avoidance Resistance Education) to help them make better choices when evaluating risks connected to drugs and alcohol.This project is a way to integrate that material emphasizing engaged learning with the Internet. It is a unit that integrates math, scientific and critical thinking and health.The students will be able to communicate via the Internet to trade information and help find, evaluate and rank data. The project will last a month with sufficient time, approximately an hour a week, plus homework.

Summary: The classroom of eighth grade science students is abuzz with activity and collaboration. The teacher, Mr. Perrotta, has introduced the idea of risk comparison and analysis to the class shortly after the students have returned from their winter recess, wherein several of the students have suffered injuries on their skateboards or while skiing. Having elicited their thoughts and opinions about the safety factors that effect them everyday at the middle school, the teacher has introduced the class to the concept of risk comparison and analysis.

The students began the unit when their curiosity about school injuries and causes led them to discuss why certain things are banned by the school rules and how these rules are made. An announcement made by the principal this morning has them upset that a group of them, the skaters , as they like to be called, are no longer allowed by school rules to wear long chains attached to their wallets. In science class the students are discussing structures and forces and how materials effect the safety of the structure. The teacher is asking them how safe school and local structures are, in their opinion. After discussing this topic, the students are asked to rate various activities they may engage in according to the risks involved. This introduces the unit and project that they will determine for themselves: what risks do they chose to take and what is the probability of injury for that activity, based on research?

The students perform several background activities to understand the concept of probability and risk. In one activity, students roll dice and compare odds to determine ratios and probabilities. In another, students rate certain risks and determine the difference between voluntary and involuntary risks. Over the course of the next two weeks, the teacher will reinforce the dice activity with other related problems, such as an analysis of an inoculation/vaccination for a fatal human disease, leading up to their own project ideas. After the brief introductory set (several 42-minute class periods), the students are addressed by the teacher and told that they are all involved in daily risks, whether they know it or not. The students will be encouraged to check out a website where they can learn about the odds of them getting injured by various activities and which activities are the greatest risks. The teacher gives them several URL s to investigate, then circulates around the computer lab which contains 32 Apple computers, all hooked up to the Internet with ISDN lines. The students are talking about their results with each other,and the teacher is facilitating their net search with hints and trouble-shooting. Each student is writing down information about topics that interest them relating to risks. A resource aide works with students requiring additional help. Non-English speaking students are able to go to sites in their native language and given assistance by student- partners and teacher/aides as needed.

When their initial inquiry is done, students are allowed to group themselves into teams of 2-4 to begin their own research project using the computers and other media (books, news broadcasts, school injury reports, interviews of students and others, etc.). The teacher assists groups by brining in additional information as required and redirecting the students with suggestions should they arrive at an impasse. They will research a risk that interests their group and correspond via email with the scientists in the risk analysis department at Sandia labs to learn how risks are determined and calculated, as well as getting information on their own preferred topic. By contacting various public websites and people (the local government, hospitals, police department, etc.), the students begin to assemble information about their chosen risk and begin to analyze the rewards and odds of injury. As a team, they will prepare a multimedia report on their chosen risk and present it to the class and public via computer software, either by constructing a web site using Page Mill or a multimedia stack using Hyperstudio. Their results and analysis will be published on the school website and given orally to the class, using their multimedia production to represent their findings. The teacher assesses their project using a rubric and is assisted by the site math teachers in assessing their data concerning probability and risk comparison. The students also take a short, skills-based assessment involving the concepts and objectives of understanding risk comparison and probability as part of their individual grades. Students also rate their projects and those of the other teams based on the rubric and are encouraged to comment and make suggestions on the other projects. The teacher makes sure that the students offer positive encouragement and criticism to each other in a way that makes the teams fell supported by the class. The results are shared with the public via website and scientists at Sandia, who come as guest speakers to discuss the findings with the class at a later date. The student work is shared with the administration and staff, offering them a look into the risks of adolescents at the school site. The results are left on the site for future student studies and comparison when the project is introduced the following year to the new group of students. Whereas the students have determined the risks for an activity they may engage in for now, there are many others to research and new data to compare with their own in years to come.


Created for the NTEP II Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.


Created by the Sandia/CA Team: Bill Britton (Mohr Elementary School, Pleasanton) , Diana Fong-Wedgwood (Edison Elementary School), Tim Perrotta (Cesar Chavez Middle School), Steven Smith (Edison Elementary School), Nancy Wilson (Sandia National Laboratories/CA)