NTEP II Fermilab LInC Online

Fifth Grade Scenario

Student Pages
Index of Projects

The fifth grade class at Edison School, along with Ms. Fong-Wedgwood's kindergarten, is joining Mr. Perotta's eighth grade class at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Union City and Mr. Britton's fourth grade 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 to ehlp them make better choices when evaluating risks connected to drugs and alcohol. This project is a way to integrate that material emphsizing 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 allotted to finish the task.

The fifth grade classroom is full of activity and collaboration. Mr. Smith has introduced the idea of risk comparison and analysis to the class shortly after the students have returned from their winter recess and a couple of weeks after Officer Dowd has begun the year's DARE lessons. After many discussions around cigaret, alcohol and drug experimentation, the teacher introduces the concept of risk comparison and analysis.

The students open the unit when they start to ask questions about the problems involved in drug and alcohol use and begin to understand that while some people may become involved in their use and not appear to suffer ill effects the chances that something may happen to them can actually be calculated statistically, as can the risks involved in many other activities they may choose to participate in. This leads to many conversations about things like skateboarding or BMX bikes with and without helmets, wearing seatbelts/having air bags, flying, eating disorders/general nutrition, etc. These conversations introduce the project and set the stage for what they themselves will investigate: how does one assess "risk" based on research, where do you find and rate information, determine probability of injury for different activities and then rationally make decisions based on the research and information.

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 others, data may be gathered by the teacher from the internet to compare risks involved between flying and driving with follow up discussions about why flying may seem more dangerous.

After this brief introduction, students are told that they make "risky" decisions every day, whether they know it or not. The students will be given websites to check out where they can learn about the odds of getting injured by various activites and which activities are rated most dangerous. The students are talking about their results with each other and the teacher is facilitating their net searches with hints and trouble-shooting. Each student is writing down information about topics of interest to them relating to risk.

Students will then be invited to think about some of the behaviors they choose to participate in that they have been told is risky. Classes will brainstorm lists of "risky" behaviors and share information they think they know. Further discussions will lead them to ponder the question of how "risk" is determined. Websites with mentors at Sandia National Lab will be available to answer questions about how they assess risk and some of the projects they assess the risk of. Students will then pick something they are especially interested in and investigate the risk factors involved with the understanding that all groups will come back together to develop a "RISK" table to help kids make better choices when evaluating risky behavior.

After the introductory work, students gather in groups of their own choosing, which may include telecollabrative groups, based on common interest, e.g., skateboarding 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 porcedures. The teacher monitors progress in the room, prodding some students, guiding others toward more productive work and asking questions. Students already have instruction, use and have access to 2 computers full time in the classroom and further access to the computer lab with 16 computers linked to the internet w/T1 lines.

The students' job is to use all available resources to gather data to help them evaluate how risky activities like skateboarding 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 kind 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 and then redo.

The final step comes when students from the different sites get together telecollaboratively to compare rates of 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.

All 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)