Holly’s Big Idea: Holly’s students assessed the health of the rivers surrounding their school. The students have hypothesized that river health is affected by agricultural fertilizer used by nearby farming communities. Using digital sensors, students investigated their hypothesis by measuring nitrate levels in river water samples, comparing suburban and rural areas, and analyzing their data to evaluate the impact of fertilizer use on the health of the watershed. In the project’s second phase, students designed and grew a small-scale model crop system that provided a balance between maintaining yields while reducing nitrogen waste. Students had the opportunity to learn directly from local farmers and agricultural engineers, who joined the class to discuss trade-offs between environmental concerns and crop yield.
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Interesting Facts: One of Holly’s favorite lessons is an integrated lesson. She began by showing NASA footage from the actual explorer landing on Mars. She then used virtual reality to have students experience flight from the classroom to the red planet. They were reminded that their journey would take approximately 7 months, so they might need to pack a snack! The lesson successfully integrated the four disciplines of STEM in a meaningful way. By working in teams, students needed to share ideas and use evidence and reasoning in explaining their designs. The five 21st Century Skills incorporated into daily learning are: Collaboration, presenting to authentic audiences, innovation, real world-problem solving, and meaningful use of information and communication technology.