By: Trisha Burns

@BurnsTrisha

As a math teacher, I feel the same pressure that other math teachers feel when it comes to high stakes, standardized testing. No, testing isn’t the only think that I focus on. I want my PBL students to develop employability skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and to have a growth mindset. However, similar to any other teacher, I have to focus on the math standards the state of Indiana says all eighth graders should know and will be tested on before the end of the year.

So starting back in the summer, when we begin to think about projects and planning, I knew that I wanted to review the critical standards (scatter plot, Pythagorean theorem, slope-intercept form, computation word problems) I had already taught students earlier this year and focus my time on solving equations standards. In science, it was time for the students to begin learning their chemistry standards. So after some brainstorming, we decided to do the project, It’s “Element”ary. This project was done last year as a science/English integrated project, so it needed to be adapted/modified to make it a math/science project. Last year students created lessons or “ learning experiences” for elementary students which had to relate to the “hot” topic they chose in their research. The English part of the project that we took out this year was an individual research paper on a current science topic in the news.

Presenting science lessons with students in an after school program. |

Focus groups testing out the science lessons. |

We use UDL (Universal Design for Learning) as our instructional framework in our district. We had a UDL facilitator for an elementary school in the district come give the students a crash course in teaching lessons to elementary students. The students had to brainstorm and then show evidence in their lesson plan as to “WHY” the information they were teaching the students was important to them as elementary students, “WHAT” they were going to teach (using multiple representations), and “HOW” the elementary students were going to be able to express that they learned what they were supposed to. While the UDL facilitator was there, she met with some groups and gave individual feedback on their lesson ideas.

Students present science lessons at the Boys & Girls Club. |

I figure before the end of this project, over 100 elementary students will have a data-driven experience that was designed by these 8th grade groups. Some groups went to the local Boys and Girls Club Friday night program to teach their science standard through an engaging experiment. Other groups went to an after-school program at the neighboring elementary school. Other groups were able to go to the elementary school during the day to give their lesson and provide a science experience. I would say overall this project was a success since I know 100% of my students can confidently answer the driving question: How can we give elementary-aged students a data-driven, engaging science experience?