The award, co-sponsored by Vernier and NSTA, is part of the NSTA Teacher Award Program. Each year, educators are recognized for their planned or current innovative use of data-collection technology.
Investigating Seasonal Changes
- Wendy Smith
- 3rd Grade Teacher
- Klem Road South Elementary School
- Webster, NY
Wendy’s 3rd grade curriculum includes learning about cycles and patterns of seasonal change. To meet this standard, Wendy engaged her 3rd grade students as “environmental scientists” in a year-long investigation of the ecosystem around the ponds at nearby North Ponds Park. Wendy created guided inquiry lessons in which students investigated whether shade affects the temperature of a body of water, and whether it is easier for fish to breathe in warm or cold water. Wendy used these activities to show how data-collection technology can be used to investigate scientific phenomena. Her students developed their own questions and took sensors to the park to gather data. The students collected air, water, and soil temperatures around the park, as well as pH and dissolved oxygen levels in the ponds. The students shared their work by creating e-books, pod-casts, and videos, which are available on their school website. Student response to this activity was amazing. Wendy is pleased with how this project has allowed her students to shine in ways like never before.
Learning Physics at the Ballpark
- Michael Breslow
- 7th Grade Science Teacher, NBCT
- Belhaven Middle School
- Linwood, NJ
Mike is always looking for ways to help his students make connections between abstract concepts and the world around them. Teaching physics concepts to 7th grade physical science students can be challenging. Mike’s solution was to create Project Surf – a culminating physics lesson the students complete at Sandcastle Stadium, the Atlantic City Surf’s minor league baseball stadium. The students determine the velocities of pitched baseballs and explore how the velocity relates to the acceleration of the ball and the force exerted by the pitcher. The fun doesn’t end at the ballpark. The students then have to turn this experience into an “Academic” Idol video in which they explain the lesson and what they learned. Mike extends the pop culture connection by reviewing the videos in his Mr. “Trump”-low, the Physics Apprentice, persona. The success of this activity has led to donations of additional technology from the community, and the activity has expanded into a cross-curricular project including baseball history, literature, math, and science.
Biotic Indexing and Stream Water Quality
- Thomas Eddy
- Science Teacher
- Green Lake School District
- Green Lake, WI
Tom’s passion for preserving the 55,000+ acre Green Lakes Watershed has led to his involvement in a “Partners in Education” project sponsored by the Green Lake Sanitary District. Tom’s students are introduced to the semi-annual activity of monitoring seven streams found in the Green Lake watershed. The students perform a survey of the aquatic organisms that inhabit the water resource, and use a biotic index that relates the presence (or absence) of specific invertebrates to a quantitative measure of the stream’s health. In addition, to determine water quality, they use data-collection probeware to measure temperature, pH, flow rate, conductivity, turbidity, and ion levels (nitrate, ammonium, and chloride). The project has motivated students to develop their own studies, some of which have been presented to the Wisconsin Association of Lakes, the Wisconsin Science Congress, and the Green Lake Area Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America. Tom’s use of field work has made a positive impact on his students and has turned a school lesson into a project that benefits the greater community.
In the Footsteps of Galileo: The James River Pumpkin Drop
- Timothy Couillard
- James River High School
- Midlothian, VA
Tim believes the best way to promote science is to use technology that puts “discovery” back into science classes. Students taking his senior science research course are expected to research, design, conduct, and present a scientific inquiry of their choosing. Tim introduces this methodology by having them participate in a Pumpkin Drop project. This activity combines a replication of Galileo’s Tower of Pisa free fall experiment with the excitement of an egg drop competition. Not only are the students required to produce a container that can protect a pumpkin dropped from various heights, they must determine which data-collection option (Motion Detector, Video Analysis, Wireless Sensors, or GPS) will best track the motion of their pumpkin during freefall. Tim credits his desire to provide student-driven inquiry to his physics teacher, Bob Devantery (Winnacunnet High School, NH), who taught him to “find things out for himself,” and to Dr. David Hestenes’ (Arizona State University) Modeling Instruction in Physics program, which showed him the potential of probeware in a student-centered classroom.
A Flashlight Without Batteries! How Does That Work?
- Michael Liebl
- Physics/Chemistry/Mathematics Instructor
- Mount Michael Benedictine School
- Elkhorn, NE
Michael has found a unique tool to motivate the discussion of energy production, storage, and transfer with his physics students. He uses a “battery-less” LED flashlight as a paradigm for these processes. The investigation begins with discovering how the flashlight generates energy. A voltage probe connected to a resistor in series with a solenoid allows his students to explore Faraday’s law of induction and highlights some of the challenges of energy production. The flashlight’s ability to remain lit after shaking has stopped leads to an investigation in energy storage. Michael has his students use a light sensor to study the exponential decay of the light intensity as the internal capacitor discharges. A third experiment involves using a spectrometer to investigate the spectra from LED light sources. This investigation leads to a discussion of quantum energy transitions. An appreciation of the challenges of our modern technological society is impossible without a good understanding of energy. Using a “battery-less” flashlight has helped Michael motivate the exploration and discussion of the issues facing our modern society.
Investigating Pinecroft Natural Area Preserve
- Brent Osborn
- Science Teacher
- North Central High School
- Spokane, WA
In the past, the abilities of students attending inner-city North Central High School were pre-judged based on the socio-economic demographics of the community. As happens all too often, many of the students had internalized these biases. This challenged Brent to develop a program that could change the perceptions of his students and the community. Brent created a research program where his students engage in authentic scientific research at the Pinecroft Natural Area Preserve. Brent’s students make use of data-collection technology in their study of local environmental issues, many of which have national implications. The students collaborate with college and government researchers as they design and carry out their own research projects. The students have investigated genetic variation in old growth ponderosa pine trees, soil fertility, air quality, noise pollution, wildlife demographics, microbial abundance, and other relevant topics. In support of this program, Brent created the North Central High School Journal of Science and the North Central Science Symposium, which provide a vehicle for his students to present their research to the community and change perceptions.
Implementing Data-Collection Technology at Central Methodist University
- James “Tiger” Gordon
- Professor of Chemistry
- Central Methodist University
- Fayette, MO
Learning science requires doing science, and in today’s technological world, that means using technology to its fullest extent. This has been a motivating principle behind Tiger’s implementation of the computer and handheld data-acquisition technology in his science courses at CMU. Tiger uses technology as part of both inquiry-based and concept-confirming laboratories in courses ranging from Concepts in Physical Science and General Chemistry, to Methods of Middle and High School Science Education, to Quantitative Chemical Analysis and Scientific Instrumentation. The success of this infusion of technology is clear to Tiger; his students that have used data-acquisition technology have greater insight into physical science than those who he taught without it. He is most proud of the accomplishments of his students that used data-acquisition technology in their research projects, some of which have been published in The Journal of Chemical Education and The Chemical Educator. Tiger’s latest endeavor is to have his Honors General Chemistry students utilize the technology to complete an inquiry-based mini research project they will present to their peers and CMU faculty.
Seven awards are available: one elementary, two middle school, three high school, and one college level. The awards, each valued at $5,500, include $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in Vernier technology, and up to $1,500 in expenses for attending the NSTA convention.
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