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.
Oakley Elementary School, Asheville, NC
Sherie Ryan-Bailey is eager to teach her fifth graders how meteorologists determine the weather. Using Vernier probes, a weather station, and resources from a local university, her students will learn weather content patterns and how different factors influence weather conditions in their area. Students study micro-climates in their school yard, exploring which locations are the wettest, hottest, or coolest. They then analyze the data on their own devices through the school’s 1:1 initiative. The lesson encourages students to design their own investigations and study a range of content related to the weather, including Earth systems, structures, processes, matter, and energy transfer. Ryan-Bailey’s lesson builds on a basic understanding of local weather to include an examination of national weather conditions.
Walton Middle School, Defuniak Springs, FL
Greer Harvell wants to nurture her students to become citizen scientists. Her seventh graders use Vernier probeware to apply their classroom learning and monitor the water quality of a lake located less than a block from their middle school. Harvell says Lake Defuniak is a focal point of the rural community, but its water quality is not monitored by any local organizations. She hopes the project will give her students a sense of ownership of the lake.
Students will measure water temperature at different depths with a temperature probe and use a water depth sampler to collect water samples. Members of the Choctawhatchee Bay Alliance, which monitors the water quality of other water bodies in Northwest Florida, will mentor Harvell’s students as they compile data and unofficially record their results. The local newspaper has also agreed to publish the students’ data monthly.
Scullen Middle School/Indian Prairie School District 204, Naperville, IL
As residential properties and other developments continue to pop up in his school’s suburban Chicago community, Aaron Mueller remains committed to encouraging his students to serve as stewards of their environments. He plans to use his Vernier/NSTA Technology win to enhance his long-standing project called “Under Construction: Exploring Non-Point Pollution in Our Community.”
During the cross-grade level collaborative project, students use Vernier probeware to explore the causes of non-point source pollution in retention ponds and natural waterways near their school in Naperville, IL. They use science and engineering practices to analyze data collected from storm water located on the school roof, outdoor classroom, rain garden, and other nearby locations. Mueller says his goal is to show students how the development of a suburban community can impact the environmental stability of native plant and animal species.
Bayfield High School, Bayfield, WI
Veteran science teacher Richard Erickson is eager to use Vernier technology to complement his blended learning teaching style. Erickson’s project centers on the nearby Lake Superior, which is the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area. His students investigate seiche in Lake Superior, a standing wave oscillation created by atmospheric forces. When a weather event is imminent, the high schoolers—equipped with Vernier motion detectors—examine the lake’s water level, then mount detectors to the deck of a nearby boathouse. The detectors record changes in the lake’s water level for the next seven days, and students analyze the subsequent data to formulate mathematical modes of seiche behavior. The class is given the opportunity to continue investigations throughout the school year.
Green Lake School, Green Lake, WI
Green Lake School in Wisconsin is located near the Big Green Lake, which is the deepest natural inland lake in the state. The water body has garnered local media attention because of its poor water quality due to bands of low dissolved oxygen. Green Lake teacher Dan Starr’s plan would help students expand their studies of the lake’s streams and focus their attention on improving outcomes for the lake itself. The project will allow students to use data-collection technology to examine Green Lake’s water resources and determine which management decisions are necessary to improve the watershed. Starr’s goal is for student work to aid the state agencies and community leaders that are currently implementing conservation management activities. Additionally, Starr says his students’ efforts to improve the lake’s ecological health could assist other communities with similar lake degradation issues.
Peninsula High School, Rolling Hills, CA
Although scientists have studied ants and termites for some time, Ben Smith believes there are still too many questions about their role in our ecosystem. His project calls for students to generate their own questions about these insects and their relevance to fundamental ecological issues. Smith’s goal is for the student research to broaden public awareness of these seemingly insignificant insects.
During the project, students launch inquiry-based field and laboratory investigations. Their topics may include spatial and temporal patterns, biogeography, microclimate, and species diversity. Smith says ants and termites are the ideal research organisms because they are easily found in a variety of locations. The project is part of The Environment Program at Peninsula High School, which focuses on developing new global leaders and promoting firsthand learning opportunities that address major environmental issues.
Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, PA
In an effort to get non-science majors excited about Physics, Kasey Wagoner at Philadelphia University is creating a new project-based physics course. The general physics class will encourage students to apply scientific principles through experiments using Vernier probes and software. To support autonomy, Wagoner says students will have the freedom to develop their own projects related to three traditional physics subject areas: forces and motion, energy and momentum, and waves and oscillations. During the three units—each four weeks long—students work in instructor-defined groups at the University’s Nexus Learning Hub, a dynamic learning space that allows students to configure furniture to fit their experiments. Wagoner says her goal is to enhance student comprehension of the topics and improve attitudes toward physics.
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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