Handbook of Engaged Learning Projects


Project Summary


Student Pages



Subject/Content Area: Physical Science, Social Studies, Mathematics, and Learning Strategies

Target Audience: Thornridge is a comprehensive high school serving approximately 2200 ninth through twelfth grade students living southeast of the Chicago city limits. Student backgrounds vary greatly socio-economically (below the poverty line to approximately six figures), ethnically (7% Caucasian, 87% African-American, 6% Hispanic) and culturally. Mobility and unemployment are high. Steel mills, the auto industry, steel processing plants and the construction trades have been the major employers; however, many no longer exist. Student test scores in all areas are below the state mean. Eighty freshmen, identified as performing well below gradelevel in all areas, are targeted to use these water units concurrently in science, math, and/or social studies, with support from our learning strategies specialist.

Project Goals: The goal is to investigate the problem (water supply), as defined by the students, using a variety of tools: appropriate technology to collect and analyze water data; telecomunications to gather data and for collaborative research with experts and other students; and multimedia technology to report and present the process and results of their research. During the project, each team is responsible for developing a plan for conducting their research and for managing their plan.

Learner Outcomes: After completing this unit, the student will be able to:

realize the roles that chemistry plays in their personal lives;.

apply and use major chemical concepts, vocabulary, thinking skills, and laboratory techniques to gather information required to make informed decisions about issues involving science and technology;.

use chemistry knowledge to think through and develop a lifelong awareness of the potential and limitations of science and technology.

Alignment with National Standards: This project demonstrates elements of the National Science Education Standards:
Science Teaching Standards A, B, C, D, E, F
Science Assessment Standards A, B, C, D, E
Science Content Standards A, B, D, E, F, G
Science Program Standards A, B, C, D, E, F
Assessment of Students: Performance-based assessments that we will use throughout the project include Problem Logs, Know/Need to Know Boards, Concept Maps, Thinking Logs, and a variety of scoring rubrics to assess a variety of skills.

Know/Need to Know Board

Throughout the experience students answer their questions, raise new ones, and find solutions. The "Know/Need to Know" board functions as a map/tool for gathering and sharing information with the class. J. N. Mitchell and P. A. Irwin (1989) have developed a scoring rubric, The reading retelling profile; Using retelling to make instructional decisions.

Search Strategy Logs

Students will keep a log of the information and resources that were used to answer their questions related to the problem and how they found that information and reflect upon and improve upon their searching strategies.

Concept Mapping

Students develop concept maps to organize their understanding of the problems related to "Supplying Our Water Needs". Concept maps are useful in examining a student's unfolding understanding of the problem, the interrelationship of ideas, and the relationship of parts of the problem to the whole. Contrasting students' maps of the problem is useful to see both how the number of ideas grow over time and how the concepts are reconfigured to illustrate newly identified, increasingly complex relationships.

From the concept map students construct a statement which defines the problem.

Thinking Logs

Students keep a log book and make journal entries in such a way that they generate their own "progress reports." Writing activities are used to facilitate reflections and discussions, to make logs of what they learned, identify problems, and plan their next move. Some log entries are "directed entries" that specifically ask students about their work. Other entries are "non-directed" and occur when students feel the need to write.

Town Council Meeting

Students will present a completed project which they have designed to answer the problem they have been presented. As a final performance assessment, students groups present their "best" solution to the Riverwood Town Council after generating potential solutions and analyzing which solutions best fit the conditions for a good solution. A rubric will be developed for evaluation in a way that the student solutions are evaluated according to their "fit" to the conditions of the problem as determined by the students and not with regard to a predetermined right answer.

Authors: Bill Meder, Gary Fryrear, and Shelly Peretz, Thornridge High School in Dolton, Illinois
Handbook of Engaged Learning Projects sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab. Funded by the Midwest Consortium for Mathematics and Science Education based at the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).
Created: July 1, 1996 - Updated: July 24, 1996