Texas Middle School Students Get Their Hands on Energy as PBL Project Commences

students in group

The Ingenuity Center, the North America GLOBE Regional Office, and the Texas Regional Collaborative at the University of Texas at Tyler, together with the University Academy of Dogan Middle School in the Tyler Independent School District, hosted a STEM Education Event to initiate their GLOBE student research project investigating energy resources.

For the next six weeks, GLOBE students in the 6th grade will be involved in Project-Based Learning (PBL) to examine energy resources and the environment. Approximately 120 sixth-graders and their parents attended the opening event on 14 September 2010, at Dogan Middle School in Tyler, Texas.

students in group

To provide background information for the students, the Mobile Offshore Learning Unit (MOLU) arrived at Dogan Middle School early in the day. Aligned with state and national standards, this engaging traveling exhibit from the Offshore Energy Center features six self-contained learning centers with curriculum-based, hands-on activities concerning energy and the technologies and sciences involved with the oil and gas industry. Sponsored by Devon Energy Corporation, Dominion Exploration and Production, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, Marathon Oil Company and Schlumberger, the Offshore Energy Center developed this $1.2 million traveling exhibit for students.

students doing expiraments

Rotating among the stations, students learned about oil and gas energy. They also learned many historical facts about the oil and gas industry and explored multiple career options. Students performed interactive activities demonstrating seismic exploration, the distillation process of oil, and how to operate exploration equipment. In addition, students learned about oil's chemical makeup and everyday products made from oil. During the PBL project, students will investigate non-renewable and renewable energy resources.

students doing science experiments

"We will be incorporating GLOBE cloud protocols into the project to examine the viability of using solar energy here in Tyler. We are very excited about our collaboration with GLOBE and look forward to spending the next several weeks investigating energy resources. GLOBE provides us with the tools and protocols to support our project-based learning experiences" said Dr. Michael Odell, Executive Director of the Ingenuity Center and local GLOBE Partner.

students doing science experiments

Following this day-long program, students and parents attended an open house, where Dr. Teresa Kennedy, GLOBE International Division Director, spoke to parents, sixth-grade students and their teachers about the GLOBE Program. Masud Shamsid-Deen, Principal of Dogan Middle School, expressed "We are looking forward to being a part of the GLOBE Program. It will connect our school community to others around the world, providing real-life connections to students and increasing their engagement in learning. Furthermore, we believe students involved in the program will develop the types of research and critical thinking skills that will be valuable now and in their future."

students doing science experiments

Dogan Middle School also serves as a UT-Tyler lab school. The lab school was developed in partnership with TISD to prepare preservice teachers utilizing the UTEACH model of math and science teacher preparation. Preservice and in-service teachers work together with coaches to implement PBL strategies in the classroom and pursue interdisciplinary projects to help students connect STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to the world of work. The University Academy at Dogan Middle School is based upon the successful Texas STEM Academy model, following a blueprint designed to create a collaborative school culture that develops students to be prepared for postsecondary success.

students doing science experiments

University Academy in-service and pre-service teachers from Dogan Middle School received hands-on training in GLOBE Atmosphere Protocols, data entry and analysis on 5 October at the International Division Office on the University of Texas at Tyler campus. Frednisha Jackson, a teacher at the University Academy at Stewart Middle School in Tyler, also attended the training and was enthusiastic about having students observe and document cloud cover. Teachers learned how to estimate Cloud Cover, a technique where which four students stand back to back, observe their quadrant of the sky, and then work together to determine what percentage of the sky is covered with clouds. "This protocol will be really fun for the students as we gather data for the solar energy viability question," Frednisha stated.

students doing science experiments

Participants also gained an understanding of Universal Time and Solar Noon, both necessary concepts in determining the time to gather data each day and for properly entering data into the GLOBE database. The digital max/min/current multi-day thermometer was demonstrated and explained. Teachers were also instructed on how to correctly collect precipitation measurements using a rain gauge, and the importance of accuracy when taking measurements to ensure that data are as scientifically accurate as possible.

students doing science experiments

UTeach Science Specialist Nikki Clark brainstormed with teachers as the training progressed, working out logistics of when data would be gathered, what data sheets would be most workable for student data collection, and how data would be entered. Clark expressed, "We are going to work really hard and submit as much data as possible for this project so that students will have a lot to work with during their analyses. GLOBE is a great program for bringing science to life for students." Dogan Middle School Teacher Elizabeth Carvajal agreed that a hands-on approach helps students gain a deeper understanding of science, and believes that the implementation of GLOBE activities will help raise standardized test scores

Additional links:

Many GLOBE students around the world are studying other aspects of energy, as well as energy efficiency. Discover how a GLOBE School in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, learned about solar energy firsthand.

ECOTEK, a science education program for fifth through twelfth grade students in Detroit, Michigan, helped learners to build and learn about wind energy systems.

Read this Star in Spanish.

8 October 2010


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