NTEP II Fermilab LInC Online

Fourth Grade Scenario

Student Pages
Index of Projects

Mr. Britton's fourth grade class at Mohr Elementary School in Pleasanton is joining Mr. Perrotta's eighth grade class at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Union City and Mr. Smith's fifth grade class at Edison 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 "Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Awareness" programs to help them make better choices when evaluating risks connected to their use. 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 communicate via the Internet to trade information, telecollaborate, and help find, evaluate and rank data. The project will last a month with sufficient time, approximately an hour a day plus homework, to complete.

Imagine a classroom of fourth grade students abuzz with activity and collaboration. The teacher 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 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 one of nature's most potent forces, earthquakes, and how materials affect 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 choose 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.

After the introductory work students gather in groups of their own choosing based on common interest, e.g. skate boarding or smoking, and begin work in a way that makes sense to them. Some groups work as a whole, others decide to break the task down into components and have individuals or partners work on pieces which the group will then put back together. Groups also interact via chat with the school teams from the other schools to compare and contrast areas of interest and working procedures. The teacher monitors progress in the room, prodding some students, guiding others toward more productive work and asking questions. Students have instruction in internet use and have access to 4 computers in the classroom at all times and further access to the computer lab with 20 computers linked to the internet with T1 lines.

The students job is to use all available resources to gather data to help them evaluate how risky activities like skate boarding are. They will find that information is most readily available on the internet from various government agencies, consumer groups, public interest groups like the American Heart Association, and user groups. As the project continues, groups will get back together to share information and resources. Where is the best information to be found? What are good search strategies? Is all information credible and accurate? What kinds of things are different age groups at the different schools finding?

When the students have collected enough information they are ready to evaluate, post and compare their data. What information should be included? Is it accurate and convincing? What is a good way to present it so it is clear and informative? The idea here is get the students to remember that they are looking at a bigger picture than just their own interests.

Groups come together again to share ideas on how to present information and share it with those at other sites. Teachers help students figure out how to design pages and present information to be convincing and informative. As students finish they post their pages on the web for others to see, critique, and then redo.

The final step comes when students from the different sites get together to rate the riskiness of their investigations and figure out how to present it on the internet. As a final assessment they are also starting to work on group pages that would act as process templates for risk assessment that could be used by any student anywhere in the country for assessing risks.

Work is now posted on the internet for all groups to look at. Classrooms at the various schools look at their handiwork and discuss what they have learned and what they would like to learn next. Hopefully, students will now be much more willing to use technology to find information and use scientific thinking to make decisions.


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)