Handbook of Engaged Learning Projects

The Search For ET



Student Pages

Internet Links



Mr. Brian Wegley is part of a talented science staff at Glenbrook South High School. Glenbrook South High School is set in an educationally supportive and affluent community. The physics staff work in teams teaching physics to over 80% of the student population and are constantly looking for ways to use technology to empower students with the ability to apply learned concepts of physics to their lives. With this goal in mind, the physics staff has instituted a second semester project which is an engaging, student directed project. It currently runs parallel with a traditionally formatted highly structured physics course and is preceded by many smaller, developmental projects during the first semester. The traditional nature of the class is providing the team with the opportunity to run the project parallel to existing curriculum in order to study its effects on student learning and the ability of students to meet the goals of the course. Among the goals of the course, two appear to be supported by this project. These two are that students will demonstrate the ability to:

It is the hope of the author of this project that it will be used effectively in the classroom and make a positive impact on the ability of students to learn concepts relevant to physics while being able to retain concepts, and methods of learning new concepts.

It is also a hope of the author of this project that this type of engaged learning experience and use of technology will lead to an increase of this type of activity in the classroom's of myself and my colleagues.


[Development/Rational for the Year-End Project]

[Teacher Preparation for the Year-End Project]


The scenario is broken up into the following pieces.

Before The Project Begins

Onto The Projects

Setting Students Up for Success - Brainstorming.

When introducing the topic of center of mass and equilibrium, this year's discussion started radically different than last year's. Mr. Wegley had sent the students home with an assignment for his 55 minute class the day before. What questions would we need to ask and answer if we were to know if life had the potential of existing elsewhere in the universe?

Last year, Mr. Wegley taught the mathematics of locating the center of mass of a system by teaching the students basic principles of torque, force along with the two conditions of equilibrium (link to u of I's equilib page). He worked through an example of two painters (m1 and m2 respectively) standing upon a scaffold (m3). To locate the center of this system they derived together the equation

The class then applied that equation to several problems together, ending up with its application to the Jupiter-Sun system. The students got the most interested in this example when they determined that the center of the Jupiter/Sun system is actually located outside of the Sun's radius.

This year, the situation that was the most interesting to the students, became the class' starting point. Mr. Wegley focuses on engaging students into real world, interesting applications of information they are learning, before he asks them to learn.

Mr. Wegley's classes review possible topics of applications for a year end project as they begin learning topics. The students have been keeping a log of brainstorming such as that they are going to do on the possible existence of life. Students can later come back and use the brainstorming of their choice to pursue the topic of study about which they are passionate!

The first day of the unit including the topic of center of mass began with Mr. Wegley asking a student to write questions generated concerning the possibility of extraterrestrial life upon an overhead transparency. Mr. Wegley instructed students not to question any of the responses or change them. "We will simply make a list and edit it later." A list of questions began to be shared.

John began with, "Are there planets besides the Earth that can support life?" Several students added questions ranging from huge questions like, "How does life begin?", to more direct questions such as, "Are there even planets outside our solar system?"

Susie shared the question, "Is there any direct evidence, like Jodie Foster received in the movie CONTACT, that life from another planet has been detected?" Susie said she didn't think any credible evidence existed, but if it did, we were done.

Mr. Wegley helped group similar questions and came up with a list of four pretty basic questions:

Mr. Wegley warned that, beyond the fact that this is not an exhaustive list, the first three questions fall within the realm of scientific data. The fourth question falls deeply into theory (hypotheses) and is very controversial. However, the study we will learn in this unit and their applications to the year end project, "ET" address all four questions above. "Remember the year end project is listed with the Global Schoolnet and there will hopefully be other schools that collaborate with us as well. Each group will have an e-mail account you can access here at school to contact experts and, hopefully, other schools."

"So," Mr. Wegley continued, "do planets exist outside our solar system?" Courtney raised her hand, and said she seemed to remember reading about scientists discovering new planets outside our solar system. Mr. Wegley asked if any other students had heard the same. About three students raised their hands, but none knew details of the discovery.

Mr. Wegley provided students with the information about Jupiter and the Sun and asked them to calculate the center of mass. In groups of two, students solved for the center of mass and found it to be located outside the Sun's radius. Mr. Wegley asked, "What would this would mean?" "Discuss with your partner how the rotation of the Sun and Jupiter would look if you were above them both. Construct a mental model of the situation and be prepared to share it with the class."

When he was done, Mr. Wegley asked each group to share their models with another group as he walked around the room listening and asking an occasional question. When groups completed their sharing, Mr. Wegley asked for a group to share their model. Joe and Edie shared that they thought the sun and Jupiter would orbit a point just outside the Sun's radius. "The Sun would appear to revolve around a point. It would kinda wobble if you looked at it," shared Edie.

Mr. Wegley asked for those who agreed. Most raised their hands with the exception of Brian's group. Brian and Patrick both claimed that the Sun was fixed in place. "The Sun can't orbit a point. It is the thing all the other planets orbit," said Patrick. Yi Leng disagreed asking what held it in place. "It just is," claimed Patrick, beginning to realize his mistake. "If you think about Newton's third law, does the Sun pull upon Jupiter, or does Jupiter pull upon the Sun?" asked Yi Leng. "They pull upon each other equally," said Brian. "See," said Yi Leng, "they can both be orbiting one point as they pull on each other. It would be like a big ball and a little ball attached on a stick. They would rotate around a point between the big and the little ball. The point would just be closer to the big ball."

As the period came to a close, Mr. Wegley interrupted saying, "You have all said a mouth full. We will continue to focus on this situation as we study center of mass, equilibrium and eventually momentum. Remember that you will want to keep good notes on how you see these things applying to this project as it may be your passionate choice."

Return to Top of Scenario

Other Great Applications of the Internet

The class continued to focus on this challenge as well as many others as they went through the course. Several times the project topics were intentionally interjected into measurements that were done by the class. Glenbrook South's physics classes are using technology to gather exciting data about student learning as well as using the interactive feature of the web to provide nearly instant feedback to the accuracy of problems, help buttons, and animated gifs to illustrate challenging problems that students often can't visualize.

One such measurement provides evidence for where students begin in a unit of study. The Force Concept Inventory was generated as a Web Quiz by Neil Schmidgall and was originally developed by Gregg Swackhammer at Glenbrook North High School and has been administered to students for years. Glenbrook South's students took the inventory before students began their study of kinematics and dynamics. The quiz was written using Claris Home Page, the program Tango to link the quiz to the program FileMaker Pro . This network of communication allows students to check off answers or enter in a numerical value, and submit results that the data base program saves. The Glenbrook South teachers can then output the scored results in virtually any way we choose. We choose to put the output in a format that allows us to quickly see overall counts of responses for each question, averages and can even have the program be our gradebook if so desired.

Students scored an average of 12 on the pretest and an average of 22 on the post test out of 29. There were categories in which classes experienced gains of 70% in success rates. To our surprise, there were also categories in which students scored lower on the post test. In one instance the drop was a whopping -20%. When teachers interview students about this particular question which concerned momentum, the responses indicated that flat statements such as "momentum of a system is always conserved" was misunderstood by students. In this one particular instance the question asked if the momentum of a ball that hits the ground and bounces back up was conserved. Students jumped on the answer of yes. Reportedly, because GBS teachers had drilled into them that "momentum (note they didn't get the system qualification) is always conserved."

In another pre and post Internet test, simple graphing problems requiring that students find slope of a straight section of a multi sloped graph revealed that students still use the beginning and end points to determine slope as they did before instruction.

In both of the above cases the physics teachers at Glenbrook South H.S. came away with data about more than student learning. They came away with real evaluations of their curriculum and they did so in time to discuss difficulties with classes allowing the revisiting of topics, correcting misconceptions. Mr. Wegley claimed that this was, "the first time I have found a means of measuring how far students come as a result of instruction and student constructivism." As a result, Mr. Wegley has corrected teaching practices and curricula.

GBS physics teachers also believe the Internet offers the power of setting up Internet Problems Sets that us animated gifs to allow students to actually see a problem as they are attempting to slove it. In one such problem students log on and open up a proplem that discusses a block sliding along a frictional surface and the student is asked to determine how high a block will slide up an encountered inclined plane. Students often forget to use the fact that the velocity at the top is zero as is the Kinetic Energy. "With these challenges, students can visualize the problem and we can even encode hints using Java Script," says Mr. Wegley.

Another power the Internet offers is asking students open ended questions. The GBS physics teachers gained valuable feedback directly from students. One student calimed, "...the best thing that helped me---the opportunity to get one to one help with the teacher where I can ask specific questions." Another said "I learned from other students teaching me and me in turn teaching others." And finally a student shared, "The most valuable experinece in this calss was when we were able to do the Internet problems and being able to correct the answers. We knew we were wrong right after we fininshed the problem and could get help from others if we were stuck. The Internet challenges kept us doing problems until we got them right."

Students also complete interactive quizzes where they receive instant feedback upon finishing the quiz. Students are then given a week to go back and correct their answers provided they use the form box at the bottom of the quiz to enter in an explanation of what they did wrong initially and what they now did to correct the problem.

Return to Top of Scenario

Onto The Projects

The Information Summary

After progressing through the year covering topics, brainstorming applications, and completing smaller related projects (see First Quarter Projects and Second Quarter Projects), the time came for groups to choose a topic about which they were passionate. "The most important thing you can do is choose a topic you will enjoy studying and that you have honest interest in pursuing further study," reminded Mr. Wegley.

The groups could choose from many different Year End Projects (see Year End Projects). They could choose Auto Collisions, Flight, Sail Boating and Buoyancy, Relativity, Roller Coasters, Musical Instruments, Planetary Motion, Sports, Electric Circuits, Sights and Sounds in Nature, or ET.

A total of four groups throughout Mr. Wegley's classes chose ET for their year end projects. Each group received a project folder , with all Rubrics, project information and a class calendar outlining project days, due dates, and check points to pace their work. Each group also received their e-mail address and password.

Mr. Wegley reminded students that their e-mail was for school use only and should remain project oriented. Mr. Wegley also reminded students they signed the acceptable use policy and told them to report ANY inappropriate e-mail received by them to him as soon as possible. Mr. Wegley warned them to be ready for their project days in class and told them to expect two days of make up work by the group for every one day missed during the project days. "Use your time wisely and be prepared," Mr. Wegley reminded his students.

Mr. Wegley also hands out a sheet with the e-mail addresses other groups within the same school (different periods or classes) along with those of related groups from two other schools that have signed on to do the same project. Mr. Wegley reminds students to use the expertise from other groups to bounce off ideas and questions. If no one in any group can answer your question, then you might have a question an expert contact from some of your project launch URL's.

Mr. Wegley goes over the format of the project with groups and reminds them that three full days of information searching were agreed upon earlier in the year and these days would begin tomorrow, Wednesday. He also reminded students that their information summaries are due for peer review next Wednesday, rough draft next Friday, and ultimately a web page to be placed on the web for other groups to access once the rough draft were returned. Mr. Wegley continues, "This is an ambitious start to this project. I recommend each of you starting a Claris Works document entitled Info Summary along with a bibliography page. If you are smart, you will each construct your own synthesis of information as you find it, create the bibliography as you go and dump it all together once your individual information is gathered and summarized. If this is done, you can arrange it after it is compiled in one place. If you keep that Claris Works document open as you search, you can copy and paste appropriate parts of information you find on Web pages as long as you footnote it and include it in your bibliography. This will speed up parts of your information summary." Mr. Wegley ends his part of the discussion by reminding students to meet in the IMC (Glenbrook South H.S. Instructional Materials Center) on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. "There are some of last year's projects up here and posted on the Refrigerator of our home page if you want to get an idea of where you are heading. You can use parts of these old information summaries as long as you give credit where credit is due. Also remember that we will meet in the IMC, have a short reminders and question session, and then the rest of the time is yours to use wisely," concludes Mr. Wegley. Once the discussion ends, students get in their groups and start working together.

Students ended the period in their groups. Each group went back to the brainstorming that was done in their journals earlier throughout the year. One ET group assigned their group leader. This group is made up of JoAnn, Kevin, Jeeyoon, and AJ. JoAnn, the group's leader is the person splitting up the responsibilities of the Expertise Content Quiz, which is an Internet quiz. It asks students questions which their group must answer and submit for credit. Group members are familiar with this type of quiz as they have completed many Internet Quizzes throughout the semester. These are accomplished in a similar manner to the Pre and Post tests described above. The web page is created to provide students with a random number within the problem. Students can submit writing, choose a multiple choice response, or type in a value. Again Tango and FileMaker Pro are utilized. "There are 25," said JoAnn, "let's split them up into groups of 8 and I'll do the last 9." Kevin volunteers for the first 8, Jeeyoon the second and AJ takes responsibility for the third group of 8 questions respectively. "These are due in two weeks so we just need to focus our research on them as we go, and answer them as we go making sure we are done in time," JoAnn adds.

JoAnn also reminds the group that they each need to be primarily responsible for one of each of the four main questions generated in the brainstorming session earlier in the year. One student researches each of the questions generated earlier in the year and all agree to do their individual summaries in Claris Works to enable the group to dump their work together creating one information summary that can be edited after feedback from classmates and Mr. Wegley and eventually put into final form.

Students initiate their three-day search by meeting in the GBS IMC using the ET Student Project Page and the beginning resources page provided. Students searched the Internet along with traditional resources such as books, magazines, and newspapers.

JoAnn and AJ search the Internet starting with The Search For Extrasolar Planets and SPACED OUT AWESOME NEWEST PLANETS HIT HUMAN EYEBALLS! Kevin addresses the question of what about the Earth is essential in the sustainment of life from traditional books and magazines and finds a magazine article he begins to read and summarize. Jeeyoon is the person in the group who volunteers to search for the chances of life existing if a planet like Earth existed. Jeeyoon starts with the Web search page and discovers the lecture linked to from the Student Page provides a nice way of viewing the chances of life on other planets. She prints out the lecture as she goes through it and highlights main points, copies them and pastes them into her Claris Works document as she goes. She also begins her bibliography by copying the link's http address to her Claris Works bibliography. When she is done with that she does a Web search but finds no other reliable resources. Frustrated with the Net, she searches magazine articles and finds some easily accessible and relevant articles.

As the period comes to a close, the group ends with a short meeting in which all agree to type up any useful information, and bibliography by tomorrow and agree to meet for brainstorming at the beginning of the second day.

Mr. Wegley calls all students together at the beginning of the second day and reminds them that they have a challenging task to accomplish. "Your group must complete your literature search, be ready to share it with another group by next Wednesday, and turn it in for your rough draft assessment by Friday. Your Expertise Content must be completed by the following Wednesday," Mr. Wegley says.

As the group meets at the beginning of the second day, Jeeyoon has summarized the information she found and shares that she thinks she has all they need for now. JoAnn asks Jeeyoon to join her topic and look up the Doppler shift and the center of mass as these topics keep coming up in her search of extrasolar planets. "I keep seeing the Doppler shift and I remember discussing it with sound, but don't quite get how it applies to light," claims JoAnn. AJ tells JoAnn that light is a wave and has the same kind of shift sound does, but he doesn't remember the equation. They read over each others writing so far, give some feedback and agree to do check progress before they leave and meet at the beginning of the third day for more brainstorming and feedback.

Jeeyoon searches out Mr. Wegley to ask him about the Doppler shift and how to calculate the center of mass. Mr. Wegley asks her how her group is doing, talks with her about where the group is, and asks if she has checked her text or any of the links made on the student project page. As she had done neither, he tells her to give it a try and come back as she gets stuck. Mr. Wegley travels from group to group to help and see how all are doing. He writes notes summarizing how each group is working and about each group's accomplishments.

Jeeyoon finds some direct information in her book on the calculation of the Doppler shift and center of mass and checks the Net to find a useful page put together by Frank Wolfs that includes a center of mass discussion among others. When she has the needed information summarized, she shares the basics with JoAnn. After Jeeyoon teaches JoAnn the basics of the Doppler shift and center of mass calculations, JoAnn summarizes what she knows for Jeeyoon. "So it seems that scientists are measuring the Doppler shift of suns as they orbit around a point in space. They orbit around a point in space because that is the center of mass of the sun itself and the unseen planet. The fact that the sun is orbiting around a point other than its center gives scientists evidence that unseen planets exist." Jeeyoon says, "So these planets haven't actually been seen? How do they know they exist then?" JoAnn shares how scientist don't know for sure that the planets exist, but the evidence and laws of physics point to something orbiting with the sun. If its not a planet, it must be some unseen massive object. "Scientists believe that it is most likely a planet," shares JoAnn.

On the third day, Friday, Mr. Wegley again calls all his groups together and asks for concerns or questions. Jon, the member of another group shares some questions. "Our group has made good progress and we are ready to dump all the individual work together, but we were wondering how well all this had to flow by next Wednesday." Mr. Wegley said that he didn't expect a flowing beautiful paper by Wednesday, but that is where they were headed. Mr. Wegley noted, "so the closer they can get by Wednesday, the better." Jon also said, "We were reading the Information Summary Rubric and noticed a section on Model Synthesis. What does that mean?" Mr. Wegley thanked Jon for the question and said, "When I get these Friday, I know you will all have a lot of good information dumped together and hopefully starting to flow in a logical way. However, I do not just want the information. It is much more important to me to see how that information fits into your world model. You need to demonstrate to me that the information has been incorporated into your understanding of the world. You demonstrate this by generating new examples, diagrams that synthesize a lot of information, etc." Mr. Wegley continued, " I don't expect a lot of that by Friday, but understand that it is expected. When you present your findings to the class in May, expect me or your classmates to ask the questions, 'Is that data what you expected? Why?' If you haven't synthesized this information, you won't be able to answer that question. From my point of view, those are the most important questions you can answer." Jon thanked Mr. Wegley and when there were no other questions, the class began their last day of official information gathering.

At the conclusion of the class's meeting, JoAnn's group again shared their information, and in the middle of their discussion, were interrupted by Mr. Wegley as he asks them how they were doing. Mr. Wegley sees they are making progress, answers some basic questions and asks the group what they are thinking of modeling and studying?

"What do you mean by that Mr. Wegley?" asks Kevin. "How can we model a sun and a planet?" "Any ideas group?" asks Mr. Wegley. Kevin remembers a program entitled Interactive Physics and asks if they could set up a model of one of these discovered sun, planet systems. Mr. Wegley tells them they could do that. JoAnn recalls that the project sheet mentioned making a physical model with two masses attached to a board that is spun also and videotaped or measured directly. "How could we analyze the videotape?" asks Kevin. Mr. Wegley shares information about a program entitled Video Graph.

"There are two good ways, but what do you want to study?" continues Mr. Wegley. AJ shares that he would like to set up a model of a system they could make similar measurements as scientists do to perform their analysis. He asks how the measurements would change if the planet were more massive. "How do they know that it is not a more massive planet further away? Wouldn't that give the same Doppler shift as a less massive planet closer to the sun? I mean, wouldn't both orbit around the same center of mass?"

"Good ideas," adds Mr. Wegley as he encourages them to start defining their project focus for this last day of classroom information researching and to remember that they need more than one set of variables to study that will help answer some question they want to study. He then leaves them to discuss a little more on their own.

As Mr. Wegley walks around helping groups and asking them similar questions, the group decides AJ's question may be a great one to explore because they don't know the answer and wonder how scientists are so certain about the attributes of a planet they cannot even see. JoAnn says that they should try to answer the question during that period and see how scientists know. They all agreed; Kevin started putting all their summaries together as the other three searched for information to answer their question.

At the end of this third period, Kevin said he was making good progress. They added new information found during the day to the information summary and to the bibliography; Kevin printed each member a copy so far to edit over the weekend. Kevin copied their information summary to a disk and said he would work on it at home and bring it back Monday to add everyone's comments and changes where possible.

Monday came and group members were given 10 minutes in class to brainstorm. JoAnn's group members each gave Kevin their comments as he showed them what he had done. They thanked him for his work so far, and they discussed their individual changes, ideas, examples to add, etc. JoAnn asked if she could take the disk and make the changes as she had some free time during the day and all thanked her for continuing on with it. For the rest of the class, students were beginning a study of sound and worked on a lab finding resonance positions in a closed tube filled with adjustable heights of water.

Tuesday, the groups were again given 10 minutes before class and JoAnn shared the changes and updates she had made. The group was pretty happy with their information summary and agreed that this version would be the one given to the groups on Wednesday. Mr. Wegley took the groups to the science computer lab and allowed them to work on analysis of yesterday's lab along with the Internet Expertise Quiz which was due by the following Wednesday. Groups recollected data from the lab if their procedure gave them suspicious results and, near the end of the class period, all groups had about 15 minutes to work on their quiz after they had completed the lab.

Wednesday, Mr. Wegley set up the day's expectations telling the class, "Today we will spend about 30 minutes giving feedback to another similar group, about 5 minutes devising how our groups will implement suggestions, and the final 20 minutes of class on pages 22-26 in your Unit 12 packet. For homework, you will revise your information summary and complete pages 27 & 28 in your packets.

Once the day was introduced, Mr. Wegley paired each group with another closely related group. In one class there were two ET groups that were paired together, in another class the planets group ended up paired with the ET group.

Mr. Wegley instructed students, "Read the information summaries, give big suggestions, like 'I don't follow this at all,' or 'This is really clear and easy to follow,' 'This isn't a sentence,' or even 'the physics in this section is incorrect.'" He also told students to focus on the rubric by which the information summary would be evaluated on Friday and asked students to point out any areas where the other group needed to focus more effort.

Groups exchanged papers and worked together writing feedback for about 30 minutes. As groups were finishing, Mr. Wegley allowed groups to determine how they might implement the suggested changes and reminded the groups they were due to him by Friday.

Groups discussed their information summaries for another 5 minutes followed by Mr. Wegley asking students to get back to their seats for 20 minutes of "play" with sound. Mr. Wegley used the rest of the period to work through some concept development worksheets on sound and assigned homework for students to complete by the beginning of class Thursday.

Glenbrook South's physics teachers have also began using the Web to post monthly calendars. Students can access these calendars, or their learning partners in class if they are absent, and can log on to see the future time line of the course. The plan for the day outlined above for Mr. Wegley's class was outlined beforehand and shared via the Web page as well as by Mr. Wegley at the beginning of class. Although a diverse amount of activities occur during class periods, students know the expectations of the period and handle the transitions very well (as they handle all the transitions we ask of them during the day).

Friday comes and students hand in the information summary to Mr. Wegley. Once he has these, he outlines the day and the period progresses as normal. Mr. Wegley grades the information summary using each group's rough draft copy of the Information Summary Rubric over the weekend. The task of grading these is greatly simplified by the use of the rubric. The main task of Mr. Wegley is to give the students positive comments about their successes and point out holes in their missing content. By Tuesday he is handing the rough drafts back.

As class begins Tuesday, Mr. Wegley outlines the period's structure, reminds students the Expertise Content Quiz is due by the end of the day on Wednesday and uses the first 20 minutes of the period to review the homework and complete more of the sound unit. Once this has been completed and questions have been answered, Mr. Wegley hands back each group's information summary along with their folder which now includes the project's first two grades: the peer review which is worth 4 points (they get the 4 points if they had the paper for the peer review, and no points if they didn't), and the rough draft grade which is worth 12 points (as earned from the rubric). For the rough draft, most groups are around the 7- to 8-point mark and are a little disappointed, but now know they have a little more work to do. For most, this is in the area of Model Synthesis and logical structure.

Mr. Wegley congratulates students on their work so far "For the most part, great work so far. Of course you have some additions before the final draft which is due in one month, but you are on course to make the obvious corrections right away, adding and revising until the final draft's due date." Mr. Wegley continues, "Also, by next Wednesday put an electrical copy of your literature search home page in my Faculty Drop folder on the server (students know how to do this as they have been using our server and Faculty Drop folders for at least three years). Just copy your Claris Works document and paste it in the Claris Home Page Template set up in my Faculty Read folder. Use the formatting cheat sheet, format it and drop it in my Faculty Drop. For those who do not feel confident in this at this point, one of the physics teachers will be in the science lab with our lab aids before and after school to give you help. We have a folder set up on our server for each topic's groups. Our participating schools from Normal, Illinois and Virginia will be doing the same for us. I'll give you their addresses as soon as they are forwarded to me. For the rest of the period, you may work on your information summary or your Expertise Content Quiz. You will not receive time in class tomorrow, so use today wisely. A few groups are already done and many are almost done. Good luck."

When the discussion is over, most groups work on their Expertise Content Quiz; almost all finish by the end of the period. Mr. Wegley walks around from group to group answering questions and talking with students about their project proposals which is the project's next step. He continues to push groups to further define exactly what they want to study.

Return to Top of Scenario

The Proposal

As Friday comes, Mr. Wegley thanks the classes for dropping him a Home Page copy of their information summaries and explains that they will be posted by next Friday. From there, Mr. Wegley shares an overhead copy of one of last year's proposals. It is truly an exemplar as he discusses what is right with this proposal. He then shows the proposal rubric and answers questions students have. The remainder of the class is spent with groups becoming more familiar with the technology and equipment they will have at their disposal. The science computer lab has TV-VCR-laser disk players set up so students can see informational videos like the Mechanical Universe and Auto Collisions that show many analyzable situations. Students with the music and sounds and sights of nature are reminded how to use the Sound software and microphone Universal Lab Interfaces. The relativity group experiments with the programs RelLab and ChamberWorks, and the ET group experiments with Interactive Physics and Video Graph. Group members walk away with an idea of how they can gather information on their topic which helps in their construction of their proposal.

In particular, JoAnn's ET group has come up with some interesting studies for their Extrasolar Planet questions. They have decided to simulate the motion of Planetary Companion to rhoCrB. They have decided to vary the mass of the planet to see what affect it would have on the sun's rotational velocity. They have also decided to pick a larger radius and vary the planet's mass to see if they could generate a function that would enable them to predict the mass needed for the planet to cause the sun to experience the same rotational velocity it had with the current scientifically proposed position and mass of the planet.

The project continues according to schedule. Once the proposals are done, revised and approved, groups begin their experimentation days. The project continues to progress in a side-by-side fashion with the created Sound and Light curriculum. The progressive due dates keep groups up with the ambitious pace.

Return to Top of Scenario

Data Gathering and Experimentation

The groups are given five experimentation days and Mr. Wegley reminds them, "As you go through these five days, remember to efficiently gather data. You will find some major frustration in developing ways to gather accurate data; don't think this just happens in our high school classroom as it is probably the most accurate look at true science you will get this year. I will be keeping notes and giving you credit for your group's cooperation, journal keeping and accurate data gathering that will end up on your Group Observation Rubric (link). Generate organized data tables and graphs as you go. Also work on your discussion of results as much as possible and continually update your procedure and literature search as you go. When you are done you will be copying and pasting your information into your Web page templates to share your projects with your class and with the world on the Web."

As students gather data, Mr. Wegley continually walks around the room and helps groups. There are times he asks for one representative from each group to come learn a valuable expertise. In one instance he shows the representatives how to use Pictofy which empowers groups with the ability to take a picture of a graph or example on the screen of their computer and save it as a gif file. He also shows them how to import a grabbed picture into Claris Works to edit it or add to it. Groups thank him and go back to their groups. Many "experts" teach their groups the technique and begin to use it immediately.

Mr. Wegley also uses the project data gathering time to sign up groups for presentations. These presentations are in 20-minute slots and are being signed up for two weeks before presentations begin to allow groups time to gear their time to be ready for their presentation. One exciting part of the presentations for Mr. Wegley and the other physics teachers is that they are scheduled for the last week of the class before finals. The physics team at Glenbrook South H.S. has traditionally found this time to be among the least productive of the year, and these projects excite students and give them an opportunity to culminate almost three months worth of work. The projects are a lot of work for students and teachers, but the results are worth the effort. Mr. Wegley asks, "What is it you remember from high school? I remember every project I did and remember every major paper I wrote. This project provides students with an authentic avenue to apply science and keeps students engaged in learning while learning to use the tools of technology to aid in their measurement of nature and their communication of their knowledge." Check out some of last year's projects.

JoAnn's group has discovered some interesting responses from their studies. They have been careful to vary one variable at a time and measure its impact upon one other variable at a time. They have simulated the motion of the Planetary Companion to rhoCrB. They have varied the mass of the planet to see what affect it would have on the sun's rotational velocity. They have also picked a larger radius and varied the planet's mass to see if they could predict the mass needed for the planet to cause the sun to experience the same rotational velocity it had with the current scientifically proposed position and mass of the planet.

They have been in contact with groups from Normal, Illinois and Virginia sharing results, asking questions etc. One question they generated, they could not find the answer to and contacted a professor from San Francisco State University. Dr. Geoff Marcy provided information that allowed the group to come to an answer for themselves and they were excited to be in contact with an actual Extrasolar Searcher.

Return to Top of Scenario

Summarizing and Presenting

As the data gathering days come to an end, the groups realize that most of their work has already been done. They have their literature searches, their proposals, and their data and graphs done. They have started their summary of results and have but to finish typing up their summary and transfer the pages to Web pages and link them together.

Before presentations begin, there are two more half days in class to work and get help. The unit work progresses as planned and groups participate in two half days of the most intense work they have done. Almost all groups have projects in final form by the end of the two days. Mr. Wegley reminds students to check all links and have a copy in one of their student folders on the server as well as dropping him a copy in his Faculty Drop Folder entitled Year-End Presentations.

JoAnn's group is ready to go and are excited about presenting their findings to the rest of the class. They are scheduled for the second day of presentations, Tuesday, and decide to meet after school for the next couple of days to rehearse their presentations.

When JoAnn, Kevin, Jeeyoon and AJ present, JoAnn begins and reviews the main information they found in their information summary. They show some specific examples that will allow the rest of the class to follow their results. Kevin then takes over and shows the class their proposal. They are showing their created Web pages on an LCD projector and have used a large font for the class to be able to see. Kevin explains their main purpose and outlines their procedure for data gathering as AJ, JoAnn and Jeeyoon chime in to add information where appropriate.

Jeeyoon takes over next and shows the class their data tables and graphs answering questions of the class as she talks. Finally, AJ takes over and shares their summary of results. He discusses their relationships, repeats values that support their discovered relationships, talks about help they received from other classes, the other two schools and the actual physicist Extrasolar Planet Hunter. After he discusses their relationships, he discusses errors and where they would go from here if the project continued. Kevin chimes in and says, "I would love to do this type of work. I was interested in math and science, but I didn't realize what kind of research was going on right now. It sometimes seems as though we know everything, but with this stuff they really are just starting to know anything. I could study this stuff for a long time!"

Return to Top of Scenario

Author: Brian K. Wegley, Glenbrook South High School, Glenview, IL
Multimedia Handbook of Engaged Learning Projects sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab. Funded by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL)
Created: July 9, 1997