NTEP II Fermilab LInC Online



Student Pages


Index of Projects

Subject: History, Health, Math, Social Science and Science

Grade Level: K-8

Abstract: This project fosters the development of critical-thinking skills, provides students with an opportunity to look at issues from multiple and empathetic perspectives, and provides an introduction to the concept of Risk. It can therefore be integrated into lessons in history, health, math, social science, and/or science. This project provides students with opportunities to explore how many of the things they do on a daily basis entail risk. Students gain insight into how to engage in risk analysis on a personal level and make decisions accordingly.

Learner Description/Environment:

Cesar Chavez Middle School is a 5th-8th school of 1400 students in Union City, Ca.. The average science class is 30 students of various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. New Haven Unified School District is the third most diverse district in the United States, according to languages represented.

Edison Elementary in Alameda, Ca. is a K-5 urban school of 350 students with a wide range of ethnic, language, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is one of twelve elementary schools in the Alameda Unified School District.

Henry P. Mohr Elementary School in Pleasanton, Ca. is a K-5 suburban school of 633 students with an affluent, yet diverse, student body. Mohr is newest of eight elementary schools in Pleasanton Unified School District.

Time Frame: One Semester

Rationale: The goal of this project will be to teach students to analyze the risks and benefits associated with specific decisions, to make inferences based on data, and to illustrate the critical differences between basing decisions on facts versus emotions. This project will promote an age-appropriate understanding of risk/benefit tradeoffs, offer a methodology for students to perform a rational analysis of emotionally-charged issues, and provide a cyber-based forum to discuss risk factors with students from diverse (e.g., geographic, social, grade level) groups. Quality of life issues will be explored as part of the analysis of risk data in the decision-making process (e.g., is driving in a car worth the risk of injury/death from an accident?).

Connection to the laboratory: Carrying out the defense programs (national security) mission at Sandia/California and other national laboratories is facilitated by public understanding of risk/benefit trade-offs of scientific and technical challenges facing this nation. Critical issues such as maintaining the weapon stockpile, shipping transuranic waste, and disposing of plutonium are best addressed in an atmosphere of public awareness and knowledge of not only the technical challenges but also of the decision-making process. This project will prepare students to understand this process and apply it to issues of relevance to them. Issues important to the national laboratories will be specifically addressed to most grade levels (e.g., issues around the transportation of plutonium will not be discussed with kindergartners).

Learner Outcomes: As a result of this project, students will be able to analyze risks and make choices based on evidence.

Tie to National Standards: (Page references are to the National Science Education Standards, 1996)

Teaching Standards: B (pg. 32): Teachers guide and facilitate learning; D (pg. 43): Design and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science; E (pg.45-46): Develop communities of science learners that reflect the intellectual rigor of scientific inquiry and the attitudes and social values conducive to science learning.

Content Standards: Science As Inquiry, (pg. 105): Understanding about scientific inquiry/abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry; Science and Technology (pg. 106-107): Providing students with opportunities to develop decision-making abilities; Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Pg.107): Help students develop decision-making skills/provide students with a foundation on which to base decisions.

Also supports National Education Goals 2000: Students will develop the skills and knowledge needed to construct their own understanding of science, technology, and the world in which they live.

Structure of the Learning:

Kindergarten Scenario:

Fourth Grade Scenario:

Fifth Grade Scenario:

Eighth Grade Scenario:

Assessment: Assessment is embedded in all acitivites throughout the project. All student products will be reviewed by the students themselves, students at other sites and all teachers involved making it performance-based, ongoing, and seamless. Students from participating classrooms divide themselves into groups based on areas of interest to them (e.g., alcohol use, bike riding, skateboarding with/without helmet, nutrasweet consumption, etc.) and investigate the risk factors associated with those activities. Information is teleshared with student teams and a collective "Comparative Risk Table" is electronically constructed which ranks the activities from least to most risky. This Comparative Risk Table will be posted on the web and feedback/discussion will occur between participating classrooms electronically. For students in grades 4 and above, issues of real-world importance to the national laboratories (e.g., the transportation and disposition of nuclear material) will be compared against the risks identified in the student-generated Comparative Risk Table.

Best Use of Technology: Students will be using the Internet to research information on the risks associated with their chosen interests (e.g., from National Safety Council, Center for Disease Control, etc.). They will telecollaborate and share information with students from different areas/cities who are also working on this project. Sandia/California scientists and engineers will serve as electronically-accessible mentors to all student teams and older students (e.g., 8th graders) will mentor younger students. All student teams will direct questions about risk assessment to experts from Sandia. Findings from all teams will be posted on the web with appropriate references. An audible hyperstudio program will be developed to facilitate participation by non-readers (e.g., kindergartners).

Pre-LInC: As part of the NTEP program at Sandia (LASER), scientists and engineers took teachers through a process designed to familiarize them with how they look at and assess risk as part of their jobs. Teachers were able to analyze the role media and other information sources (e.g. industry web pages on the Internet) manipulate information in order to persuade unwary readers. It is important for teachers to develop critical reading and thinking skills in students who will inhabit an information rich world as a result of advances in technology where various competing interest groups are trying to influence their opinions and win their support.

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)