Another great article capturing the great work of the Math Science Partnership grant through the Department of Education. The SEEC works in collaboration with North Dakota State College of Science to provide professional development for teachers on how to bring project-based teaching and learning into classrooms while also incorporating 21st Century Skills and the 4Cs. Throughout this work a Community of Practice has been developed where teachers will now be able to share their PBL lessons with participating colleagues.
Twenty-one eighth graders from Wahpeton Middle School took to the water the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 29.
Unlike many seafarers, they traveled aboard cardboard boats. Also, the “sea” was a pool at North Dakota State College of Science. It was the conclusion of Wahpeton Public Schools’ latest use of project-based learning in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
“Kids are coming in with a lot more experience with working in groups and doing big projects like this,” said teacher Jim Green. “They know better how to work in groups, complete a project and complete it on time.”
The object for each team, 21 in total, was to have their boat stay afloat for three minutes. Some boats, like the one captained by 13-year-old Hunter Craig, struggled to do so. Other boats, like the one captained by Quinn Bassingthwaite, 13, stayed afloat easily.
“We had a layer of boxes in between, which helped support our bottom and what I balanced on,” Bassingthwaite explained. “Plus, we duct taped the whole bottom. My group got along with each other and this has been a lot of fun.”
Cheryl Brown is the STEM Outreach Specialist at NDSCS. The boat launch was the conclusion of a three-day restructuring of one of NDSCS’ most enduring activities, You’re Hired.
“We provide supplies and when needed, someone to help lead events,” Brown explained. “The original day-long activity was designed to give students time for exploring careers ranging from engineering to technical careers to advertising and management.”
Starting this year, You’re Hired was expanded to three days. On the first day, the eighth graders were divided into teams or “companies.” They spent time learning about 21st Century skills such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.
“Employers know if you graduated from engineering school, you can engineer,” Brown said. “They also want to know you can send a coherent e-mail and work on a team.”
Given the goal to make a student-sized boat float, the student companies developed prototype designs and pitched to a “boardroom” of community volunteers. They created a company name, logo and slogan and then went to work on the student-sized boats themselves.
“Each group got as much cardboard as they wanted, plus three rolls of packing tape and one roll of duct tape,” said teacher Noelle Green. “NDSCS provided the box cutters and pool access, Econofoods provided the cardboard and FFA provided the trailer to transport it. It was kind of a dream we had, but it was reality with all this community help.”
Leading up to the boat launch, Jim Green said he was looking forward to seeing his students’ excitement grow.
“They put all this work into their boat,” he continued. “They’re thinking about it, then they put it into practice and see if it’s going to work or not.”
Haile Waxweiler, 13, wasn’t able to stay afloat for the full three minutes.
“I think our boat was just a little thin on the sides,” she said. “We should have made it thicker so it would stay afloat. I still had a good time, though.”
Wahpeton Middle School was one of several participating in what Brown calls “a community of practice.” It’s possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Math Science Partnership.
“Part of the commitment from participating schools is to hold at least two project-based events,” she explained.
Brown is happy that projects like the boat launch can be fun while still meeting educational standards. “It’s fun to see what the schools are doing with this and it’s fun to see Wahpeton embracing it,” she said.