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                                     Seventh Grade Students Apply STEM to Investigate the Effectiveness of Two

                                                 Widely-Used Oil Spill Clean-Up Methods: Skimming and Absorbing

 

    

 

    Exxon Valdez - oil pooled among rocks. (NOAA.GOV)

   

 

 

 

              Teacher: Melissa Miller

      

      Students: Seven 7th Grade Classes

               

 

                  Kirtland Middle School

Central Consolidated School District

                   Kirtland, New Mexico

 

                          2009-2010

 

 

    

 
 

  Nowadays it is common to read head-

  lines about oil mishaps and how they

  are destroying parts of the ecosystem.

  In just the past 3 months, three report-

  ed incidents involving oil wells have

  "sprung up": the BP Gulf of Mexico

  "gusher," a tow boat hitting an abandon-

  ed oil well wellhead causing oil to spew

  oil into the Gulf, and the oil pipeline

  explosion spreading oil into waters off

  the shore of the city of Dalian in China.

  This featured inquiry demonstrates how

  understanding the impact of humans on

  the environment through such environ-

  mental disasters as well as the tech-

  nologies available to deal with them

  leads students to achievement of two

  of the National Science Education

  Standards' "Goals of science education."

    

 

  

   (Click here to view our kindergarten oil spill   

     featured inquiry)

 
         
 

 

           Classroom and Course Demographics       

  • Seventh grade students at Kirtland Middle School are required

           to take a full year of science. Each day I teach seven science

           classes, two of which are considered advanced classes.  At

           the time of this RIP® (Research Investigation Process) scientific

           inquiry, I had a total of 133 students. Thirteen percent of

           these students I involved are considered Special Education,

          10% are ELL, and 77% general education. Kirtland Middle

           School is a Title 1 school.

  • The science course involves studying the scientific method,

           forms of matter and energy, cells, genetics, ecology,

           classification, plants, the human body, and Earth in the

           solar system.

  • The course is designed to build on knowledge that the students

           gained from the sixth grade, as well to develop new knowledge

           of new concepts.  Some of the tasks involved in this course

           include doing research, presentations, hands-on labs, and

           many individual and group activities.                               

  • The classroom environment I have established is geared

toward students feeling safe, involved, engaged, being

respectful towards one another, and gaining an

appreciation and respect for science.

 

I am a new teacher and this is the first year that I had

scientific inquiry as an instructional tool in my classroom.

The Research Investigation Process (RIP) was implemented

 

 

at selected schools and classrooms in my school district

beginning around the middle of the 2009-2010 school year.

I attended a six-day training session with other secondary

teachers prior to introducing this scientific inquiry-based

critical thinking model to my students. At the time that this

inquiry was started by my students, I had already

introduced the RIP into the classroom and my students

had conducted one previous inquiry over the course of

the year.

 

                           

    

          Ms. Miller presents to her colleagues a storyboard proposal (one of the

          features of the RIP scientific inquiry model) for another inquiry that she

          developed during a RIP training session.

                                  

 

                                    

                                      

                                          

 

                                                                                                                      INSTRUCTIONAL PLAN AND OBJECTIVES

 

 

   Introducing the Oil Spill Inquiry

When coming up with this inquiry, my initial thought

was to come up with something that dealt with the

environment (Ecology). Then I remembered that many

of my students really seemed to be intrigued with oceans

and ocean life, so I wanted to incorporate oceans

somehow into my next inquiry with the students. The

oil industry is prevalent in New Mexico and oil well drilling

is a common sight for those of us here even if we may

not have some immediate family member or relative

working the oil fields in some capacity.

 

 

       

                     An oil drill rig in New Mexico.

 

 

So I thought that simulating an oil spill and having the

students decide which methods of clean up to use and

test would be relevant and fun, yet a very valuable

learning experience that dealt with oceans and ocean

life.  However, sadly, I had no idea that, after coming

up with the storyboard proposal and preparing to

introduce this guided inquiry to my classes, the BP oil

geyser in the Gulf would happen.

 

 

             

                         Offshore oil drill rig.

 

                                 

 

Although we were geographically far from the Gulf

disaster site, the media coverage was abundant and

we felt as if we were first hand witnesses. It is not

difficult to imagine the value of this developing tragedy

for motivating my students to learn about ecology

and man's influence on the environment through

the use of models. It was indeed a teachable moment!

 

As I was relatively new to teaching through scientific

inquiry and had not previously attempted this guided

inquiry on oil spills, I decided to explore some of my

ideas with my own children at home before

attempting to introduce it into my classes at school.

 

 

         

           Melissa Miller's son skimming oil off of the surface of water in

               a simulated oil spill.

CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO:

Ms. Miller practices her Socratic questioning and formative

assessment skills as she questions her son, Carson, about what he is

doing and why as he uses a skimming technique to collect oil from the

surface of the water in a simulated oil spill.

 

 

  Scientific Inquiry Instructional Goals & Objectives

     

I developed the plan for engaging my students in this

research investigation with the expectation that the

outcomes would align with Goals I and III of the

National Science Education Standards (NSES).

 

NSES Goal I: Experience the richness and excite-

ment of knowing about and understanding the

natural world

I expected this inquiry-based instructional approach to

stimulate student interest to learn about science because

  • I was providing students with the opportunity

to answer their own questions.

  • Students were provided the opportunity to design

           an investigation to test their own hypotheses

about the natural world.

 

NSES Goal III: Engage intelligently in public discourse

and debate about matters of scientific and

technological concern

                                       

By the end of this unit, I expected my students to be

able to:

  • understand what ecosystems are and why they

are important.

  • describe and provide examples of the inter-

dependence of organisms in an ecosystem.

  • explain how an oil spill affects the environment.
  • identify different methods used to clean up

oil spills.

  • understand the mechanisms through which

these methods work by having them put their

cleaning methods to use to clean up a

simulated oil spill.

 

Specifically, my students would:

  • Observe a short movie clip of the Exxon Valdez

                     Oil Spill.

  • Record their observations and assess them

for objectivity.

  • Ask questions concerning oil spills.
  • Formulate and pose a research question originating

from one or more of their objective observations.

  • Gather background information related to their

research question.

  • Construct a testable hypothesis.
  • Design a study to test their hypothesis.
  • Record data and analyze data accurately.

and honestly.

  • Use evidence based on their data to support their

decision about their hypothesis.

  • Evaluate and discuss findings within their groups.
  • Come together as a class and discuss their findings,

as well as their understandings of oil spills, and relate

them to the Gulf Oil Spill that is happening   now.                    

               

 

                                                                                                               MATERIALS USED

 

 

       BACKGROUND MATERIALS

    

  • A video about oil spills and their consequences to the

          environment

  • Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 1989:

           http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=

           YkzB1ZYcTwM&feature=related     

  • Oil Spills:

                     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=

                     NuVv6jDk1jY&feature=related         

  • The Exxon Valdez Disaster-20 Years Later:

                     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=

                     MbjC9SMKClE&feature=related

 

  • Alaska's Big Spill -National Geographic

 

                    

    

  • World Wide Web Resources containing pictures of the

          consequences of the Exxon Valdez oil spill:               

          http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/gallery_gallery.php?          

          RECORD_KEY%28gallery_index%29=joinphotogal_id,

          gallery_id,photo_id&joinphotogal_id(gallery_index)=171&

          gallery_id(gallery_index)=12&photo_id(gallery_index)

          =106]

 

  • Books and other Internet sites containing conceptual

           information about ecosystems

 

 

   File:EVOSWEB 013 oiled bird3.jpg

      Birds killed as a result of oil from the Exxon Valdez spill.   

      (Photo courtesy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.)

 
  • A slide show about many different traditional and

nontraditional methods for cleaning up oil spills

  • http://classic.cnbc.com/id/37593652?slide=1             

The Research Investigation Process (RIP) is a critical

thinking model based on how scientists think when

conducting their research about the natural world.

I have a RIP flowchart (see below) on my classroom

wall to which my students can refer when engaging in

their scientific inquiries.

     

          

                           Flowchart of the RIP for secondary students.

                                            (Click on chart to enlarge)   

 

 

                        Exxon Valez oil onshore at Herring Bay (NOAA.GOV) .                           

                               

 
                                                                                                                  INTRODUCTION
 

 

Providing My Students with the Opportunity

to Make Observations

 

The first step for me as to stimulate student interest as I

introduced our topic. This was done by having my

students watch a short video clip regarding the Exxon

Valdez Oil Spill that happened in 1989. The video

focused on consequences of the oil spill to the sea

environment. From there, I had them individually write

down their observations from the video clip. My students

had previously learned how to make and identify

objective observations.

 

       

                         Exxon Valdez - grounded on Bligh Reef.

 

Then as a class, we all shared what we observed; these

observations were written down on chart paper at the

front of the classroom for everyone to see. Many

students were surprised at the damage that was done

by the oil spill resulting from the ship hitting Bligh Reef.

 

Student Observations

  • An oil tanker was leaking oil.
  • The people couldn’t contain it.
  • The oil spread all over.
  • Animals were coated in oil.
  • Many animals died.

                  

        

                        A sea turtle on Grand Terre Island, June 8, 2010.

              (Reuters/Lee Celano) [Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_sc2694;

              _ylt= Alm89rTMrl0_Kj1th6Y.b.vZa7gF;_ylu=X3oDMTB2djk2ZDM1BHBvcw   

              M3BHNlYwN5bl9mZWF0dXJlZARzbGsDaW1hZ2U]

 

                               

                                  An oil-coated bird.

 

  • The oil tanker lost 11 million gallons of oil.
  • The oil spill happened in 1989.
  • It took 12 hours for clean up efforts to arrive.
  • After many years oil still remains there.
  • The spill happened in Alaska
  • Oil can kill ecosystems.
  • Oil spills affect the food chain.
  • The oil wasn’t easy to clean up
 

Socratic Questioning

I knew that I wanted to get my students to "buy into"

this topic as early as possible so that they would take

ownership and contribute to the thinking involved in all

aspects of this research investigation. I began by

questioning them, focusing on detailed aspects of

sources for oil spills, consequences on the ecosystem,

and methods for cleaning up oil spills.

The Questions I asked included:

What is an oil spill?

Are oil tankers the only source of oil spills?

Where do most oil spills happen in the world?

Do oil spills affect the wildlife in and around the ocean?

Can oil spills be cleaned up?

Is it an easy process to clean up oil spills?

What can be used to clean up an oil spill?

Does the type of oil involved in the spill affect the

   clean-up process?  

       

          Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is seen at sunset off East Grand

          Terre Island, where the Gulf of Mexico meets Barataria Bay, on the

          Louisiana coast on July 31. Top left is Grand Isle. 

          (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press) [Source: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/

          2010/08/02/ gulf-oil-spill-cap.html?ref=rss# ixzz0vTp47CA7]

     

          GULF OF MEXICO - Skimming operations continue to help mitigate the

             effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill Friday, June 25, 2010.

                      ( U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jaclyn Young.)

   

CLICK HERE TO SEE OIL SPILL SKIMMING VIDEO:

Gulf of Mexico - U.S. Naval Skimming Operations (Vessels conduct

skimming operations in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the

Deepwater Horizon incident May 22, 2010. The Deepwater Horizon,

a mobile offshore drilling unit, exploded April 20, 2010 and sank two

days later.) [Used with permission, U.S. Coast Guard ]

   

    

Many student questions arose as a result of the

discussion of their observations, and my questioning.

Their observations included some of the methods for cleaning

up the surface of water following a spill.

  

      

           A controlled burn of oil from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill sends

           towers of fire hundreds of feet into the air over the Gulf of Mexico June 9.

           (Courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard, Photo by Petty Officer First Class John Masson)

    CLICK HERE TO SEE OIL BURNING VIDEO:

    In-situ burn footage shot by Petty Officer Justin Sawyer, April 28, 2010,

    Deepwater Horizon Response, Gulf of Mexico

    (Used with permission, U.S. Coast Guard)

                     

 

              

                    A hose sucks oil from the shoreline June 9 in Belle Terre, La.

                   (AP Photo/Eric Gay) [Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews

                   _sc2694;_ ylt=Alm89rTMrl0_Kj1th6Y.b.vZa7gF;_ylu=X3oDMTB2

                   djk2ZDM1BHBvcwM3BHNlYwN5bl9mZWF0dXJlZARzbGsDaW1hZ2U]

 

 

 

Student interest in clean-up ability really peaked as news of

the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill began to surface. In the

end, a research question was established that would in time

be answered through the use of an investigation.

                       

Deepwater Horizon Fire (Courtesy: United States Coast Guard).         

 

     

Based on the background information they had collected,

they focused on two methods for cleaning the oil off of

the surface of the water: absorbing and skimming.

                    

                                           

                         Oil skimmers are seen working in oil.

                     [Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_sc2694;_ylt=Alm89rT

                     Mrl0_Kj1th6Y.b.vZa7gF;_ylu=X3oDMTB2djk2ZDM1BHBvcwM3BH

                     NlYwN5bl9mZWF0dXJlZARzbGsDaW1hZ2U]

 

Absorbent pads are applied to soak up oil that has washed ashore June 6.

in Grand Isle. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) [Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews  

 /ynews_sc2694;_ylt=Alm89rTMrl0_Kj1th6Y.b.vZa7gF;_ylu=X3oDMTB2djk2ZD

 M1BHBvcwM3BHNlYwN5bl9mZWF0dXJlZARzbGsDaW1hZ2U

             

        

Research Question

When cleaning up an oil spill, which method, skimming or

absorbing, is most effective for removing the oil?

 

Background Information

Days 2 and 3 of this inquiry were spent in the computer lab

where the students did background research in regard to oil

spills and cleaning methods. On the following day, we came

together as a class and discussed our research findings.

           

Their background research covered three topics:

  • What an oil spill is
  • How oil spills affect the ecosystem
  • The different ways oil spills can be cleaned up

Below is some of the information they gathered and

learned about:

  • The nature of oil spills
    • An oil spill is the discharge of oil that reaches

    bodies of water.

    • The wind speed and the density of the oil
               determines how fast oil spreads.
    • Oil spills happen due to many reasons.
      • Oil tankers can leak it out.
      • People purposely dump oil into
                    bodies of water.
      • Natural disasters can cause them.
  • Oil spills affect the environment in many ways:
    • Food chains
    • Animals die due to the ingestion of oil

              (cleaning themselves).

    • Animals die of hypothermia.
    • Shorelines are destroyed.
    • Animals suffocate (blow holes get blocked

               with oil).

  • Methods used for oil clean up include:
    • Burning-used to clean oil up off the water

               through the use of controlled burns. Oil

               is collected into dense pools that are

               then remotely ignited. This method can

               negatively impact air quality.

              

    • Skimming-booms are used to contain and

               gather the oil into dense pools and then

               skimmers or centrifuges are used to

               separate the oil from the water.

    • Evaporating-according to experts, dispersed

               oil that does not get collected from

               skimming, absorption, or burning

               eventually evaporates.

            [Experts: Most of the Gulf Oil Spill Won't

            Be Cleaned Up, April 29, 2010;  http://

            www.livescience.com/environment/gulf-

            oil-spill-clean-up 100429.html]

    • Absorbing-soaking the oil up into absorbent  

              material. My students learned from the 

              background information that absorbing is

              the most commonly used method for cleaning

              up an oil spill. The three types of sorbent

              materials that can be used:

      • natural inorganic (e.g., sand)
      • natural organic (e.g., saw dust,

                 feathers, cotton)

      • synthetic (plastic-like material)

      To be useful in combating oil spills,

      sorbents need to be both oleophilic

      (oil-attracting) and hydrophobic (water-

      repellent).  Cotton is considered to be

      both (http://cottontoday. cottoninc.

      com/sustainability-future/Cottons-Role-in-

    Gulf-Clean-up/).

    • Dispersants-when a dispersant is applied to

      an oil spill, it pulls apart oil particles

      suspended in the water. These

      chemicals break up the oil, allowing for

      easier absorption and natural

      biodegradation including evaporation.

       

                "Bringing innovative technology to the fight."

   New Orleans – 278-foot skimmer, a macerator 6000 barrel capacity

   U.S. vessel outfitted with a centrifuge. The skimmer extracts and

   filters oil through a cage to avoid bringing in debris. The oil is then

   sent to the Macerator, which is a device designed to chop up any

   debris collected during oil recovery. The oil is then sent to the  

   centrifuge, made popular by actor Kevin Costner, which spins the

   mixture so that the oil and water is separated. The oil is then finally

   sent to the vessel's storage tanks. Graphic created by Deepwater  

  Horizon Response. (Owner: SA Grace Baldwin) [Courtesy: U.S.

   Coast Guard]

CLICK HERE TO SEE OIL SPILL BURNING AND SKIMMING VIDEO:

Offshore Offensive. (The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard battle the  

Gulf oil spill using burning and skimming procedures.) 

[Used with permission, U.S. Coast Guard ]

 

 

Hypothesis

On this day, I had the students separate into their specified

groups. For each of my classes, I had the students divided

up into five groups. Here they began their construction of a

hypothesis on chart paper. I had each group present their

hypothesis that they constructed to the entire class. As a

class, each hypothesis was critiqued, and from there, it was

decided which hypothesis we would go with:

"If an oil spill is simulated and we compare the methods

of skimming and absorbing to clean up the oil, then we

will find that absorbing is a more effective method

because absorbing soaks up the oil and this is the most

common method used in the history of oil spill clean-ups.”

Having the students do this in front of the class works

really well. It allows the students to see what they forgot or

didn’t need and allows other groups to be aware of and

recognize what they need to fix.

 
                                                                                   DESIGNING THE STUDY:  METHOD
 

 

Together as a class, we began designing the Research

Investigation Process study that would be used to test their

hypothesis on the eighth day. Here the students identified

the subjects and the materials that would be used to

conduct the study. These items were written on the

board at the front of the classroom.

 

Subjects

The subjects in this study were simulated (model) oil spills.

Each class conducted their own oil spill investigation and

had five groups of students. Each group had their own oil

spill model.

 

          Student-made oil spill models. [Each model contained

a shoreline with rocks and feathers (to simulate

effects of the oil and clean-up method on wildlife).]

                                   

Study Materials and Equipment

  • Chart paper for recording class observations
  • Water
  • Used motor oil
  • Beakers for collecting, measuring, and pouring water

          and oil

  • Plastic trays to contain the ocean-oil spill simulation
  • Cotton balls to absorb oil from the surface of the water
  • Spoons to skim oil from the surface of the water
  • Gloves for safety and protection
  • Bucket for oil disposal
  • Rocks to compose a shoreline
  • Feathers to assess impact of spill on wildlife

 

       

                A worker installs "pom poms" to soak up oil at the

                Pensacola inlet Sunday, June 6, 2010, in Pensacola

            Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, George Skene)

 

 

 

Study Materials and Equipment (continued)

  • Camera for collection of qualitative shoreline data
  • Fish tank air pump with tubing to simulate currents

    and water surface agitation from waves

  • Soap for cleaning the oil off of the equipment
  • Data tables for recording, organizing and summarizing

the amount of oil collected using each of the clean-up

methods and documenting qualitative data in the form of photographs

  • Bar graphs to enter data and statistics for determining

whether the students' hypotheses were supported

or not

 

Developing the Procedure for the Study              

The students separated into their groups and began

developing their procedures onto chart paper. After all the

groups were finished with this, I had each group bring up to

the front of the classroom their chart paper with their procedure

written on it to present it to the class. Here each procedure

was critiqued, and a class procedure was established taking

the best ideas from the groups' proposed procedures. Again,

having the students present this in front of the class was a

great way for the students to recognize what was missing

or wasn't necessarily needed.It also helped students with

speaking in front of an audience.

 

              Students carefully pour used motor oil from the beaker into their

   simulated ocean water.  

 

 

                  

                                 Drilling for oil in New Mexico.
 
 

                                                                                                                         The Procedure

 
 

 

1. The materials were obtained in quantities that would

    permit 5 groups of students in each of my classes to

    make their own oil spill model.

2. Students built a shoreline made of rocks and a few

     feathers inside towards one end of the plastic model

    tray. This would be useful for assessing the impact of the

    oil spill and clean-up efforts on shoreline ecology including  

    the substrate and wildlife.

3. The ocean portion of the models was formed by measuring

    300 ml of water in a beaker and pouring the water into

    the tray.

4. A photograph was then taken of each model to document

    the condition of the simulated ocean and shoreline prior to

    the oil spill occurring. This photograph was entered as

    qualitative data into Table 2 for each group.

5. While wearing gloves, the students measured 50 ml of oil

    in a beaker.

6. The oil was then poured into the tray with water and

    allowed to sit for 3 minutes.

7. Waves were then created in each oil spill model using an

    aquarium air pump connected to an air tube turned on for

    3 minutes.

8. Using the spoon, students skimmed the oil off the surface

    of the ocean for 7 minutes. The collected oil was placed

    into a beaker.

9. The amount of oil collected (in ml) was then recorded onto

    a separate data table (Table 1) for each group. These data

    represented the quantitative (number) data for this study.

10. Students then made observations of the ocean and

      shoreline to see the impact of the oil, if any.

11. The students then took a picture of their simulated

      oil spill following the cleanup procedure.

12. These qualitative (picture) data were then entered onto

      Table 2 for each group.

  

          Two vessels skimming oil off of the water surface in the

          Gulf of Mexico. (Courtesy United States Coast Guard)

 

 

 

13. The water and oil from the oil spill models were

      discarded into the disposal bucket and the rocks and

      tray were thoroughly washed.

14. Each group repeated steps 2-13 for the skimming

     method two more times so that they would have data

     to summarize as medians for the three replicates.

15. Following the completion of the skimming method, the  

      students began the procedure for the absorbing

      method of cleaning the oil up from the oil spill.

16. The identical simulated shoreline was built with the

       rocks and feathers and 300 ml of "ocean" water

       added to the plastic trays to again produce the

       oil spill model. The model ocean was photographed.

17. 50 ml of oil were added to the plastic trays in the 

      same manner as before to again produce the oil spill.

18. This time, the students used the cotton balls to absorb

      oil from the surface of the water.

19. When the cotton ball was saturated, the students

      squeezed out the collected oil from the cotton into

      a beaker.

20. After 7 minutes of oil collection using the absorbing

      method, the amount of oil collected (in ml) were

      recorded onto Table 1 for each group.

21. Waves were then created in each oil spill model using

      the aquarium air pump in the same way as before.

22. Students then made their observations of the ocean

      and shoreline to see the impact of the oil, if any.

    

23. Each oil spill model was photographed for qualitative

      data and the photographs added to Table 2.

24. Steps 16-23 were repeated two more times by each

      group of students for the absorbing method.

25. After all the students completed their absorbing

      procedure, everything was cleaned up and the oil

      prepared for proper disposal.

Coast Guard cutter Aspen skimming oil in Gulf.  (Courtesy United

States Coast Guard)

 

 
                                                                                         CONDUCTING THE STUDY TO TEST OUR HYPOTHESIS  
 

 

                                          

                                                           Student using the air pump to make simulated wave action in the oil spill model.              

                                                                                 

 
                                                                                           
 

           

             Collection of oil using the skimming method (left) and placing the collected oil

               into the beaker (right).

 

         

                U.S. Coast Guard cutter Aspen skimming oil off of the surface of the

                   Gulf waters. (Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

 

 

The students began the actual procedure part of their

inquiry on the twelfth day. Each method was tested

three times; that is why the actual conducting of the

study continued on for six days. During the first three

days they tested the skimming method, and during the

last three days they tested the absorbing method.

After each testing trial, the students recorded their

quantitative (#) data onto Table 1.

 

 

                  Students recording the collected oil data from the beaker.

 

 

They also recorded their qualitative (picture) data. They

took a before picture of the water before the oil was

dumped in and record the picture into Table 2. They

also took one picture after each cleaning method was

complete and recorded those pictures into Table 2

as well. So, all together, they had three pictures:

one before and two after pictures (one following

skimming & one following absorbing the oil from

the surface of the "ocean").

 

 

                      United States Coast Guard skimming oil in the Gulf.

                              (Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

 

       

                 Close-up of  absorbing the oil with cotton balls and squeezing it out into a

                 beaker for measurement.

 

                        

                           Students using cotton balls to collect the oil

                                 through absorption.

 

                       

                         Squeezing absorbed oil from the cotton balls

                                  into a beaker.

 

 

 

             

                   Structure of data table used by each group of students for writing

                   down the amount oil collected for each of the three trials using the

                   two methods.

 

 

            

                           Structure of Table 2 for descriptive (qualitative data)

 

 

              

                    Absorbent material collects oil near the base of a Gulf Shores

                    fishing pier June 14.

                     (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)[Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/   

                     ynews_sc2694ylt=Alm89rTMrl0_Kj1th6Y.b.vZa7gF;_ylu=X3o DMTB

                     2djk2ZDM1BHBvcwM3BHNlYwN5bl9mZWF0dXJlZARzbGsDaW1hZ2U]        

                       

 
                                                                                    THE RESULTS  

 

The two methods had been tested, and now it was time

for the students to analyze their data. Each group needed

to come up with the median amount of oil collected for

each of their methods (skimming and absorbing) and

record them into their Table 1.

 

 

     One group's data table used for writing down the amount oil

     collected for each of the three trials using the two methods.

     The median amounts of oil collected for skimming and

     absorbing over three trials are shown on the bottom row.

 

 

Then together as a class, the students came up with a

class data table (Table 3, see below). In this particular

table, each group’s median amount of oil collected for

each method was recorded and a class mean then

calculated for each method.

 

 

Table 3 displays the data my 5th hour class. Skimming and absorption

medians were entered for each of the five groups and then means and

error [standard deviation and standard error of the mean (SEM)] calculated.

 

 

    

      This is one student's handwritten Table 3 from my first hour class.

 

 

After table 3 was completed, a graph was constructed.

Then the standard deviation and standard error of the mean

were calculated and placed on the graph so that students

could show the error that occurred in their data and use

this error measurement (standard error of the mean or

SEM) to make their decision about their hypothesis.

 

 

  Figure 1 containing the mean-median quantity of oil collected by students

  in my fifth hour class using the absorbing and skimming methods.

  [Note that the standard error bars for the two means do not overlap.]

 

 

The students in all but my 6th hour class found that their graphs of mean-medians with standard error bars showed a statistically significant difference in the amount of oil they were able to collect using the two different methods of collection—absorbing and skimming. In all cases, they were able to collect more of the oil off of the water using the skimming method than the absorbing method [see the graph  above (Figure 1, above) for my 5th hour class's data].

 

 

Below is the graph for Figure 1 for my 6th Hour students. As

you can see, the error bars on the mean amount of oil

collected for the two methods overlap. This indicates that the

apparent difference in the means can be explained by error

in the study and therefore, statistically speaking, there was

no difference between the mean amount of oil collected

for the two methods.

 

Figure 1 containing the mean-median quantity of oil collected by students

in my sixth hour class using the absorbing and skimming methods.

[Note that the standard error bars for the two means overlap.]

 

The pictures that the students took after collection of the oil

following the simulated spill, agreed with their quantitative

data analysis. They could see clearly that the water that

had been skimmed to remove oil was much clearer than the

water that had been cleaned with the absorbing method

(see Table 2 below).

 

Table 2 for one group of students containing the photographs before the oil

 spill and after clean up efforts using skimming (left) and absorbing (right).

 

But why were the data for the 6th hour class different than

those obtained by the other six classes? By looking at the class

data tables (Table 3, see directly below) containing the data from

each group, my students could identify the reason that the mean-medians for the 2 collection methods for the 6th hour class

overlapped when error was considered. One group, Group 2,

had collected a large amount of oil when using the absorbing

method compared to using the skimming method. This added to

the error or variability and resulted in the overlap between the

means when error was considered.

 

       

       

      

      The Table 3 data from all seven of my classes. Note that when the

      standard error (SEM) was taken into account, the skimming method

      resulted in significantly higher amounts of oil being collected by

      my students for all but my 6th hour class.

 

   

                                                                      

          

                   Washing the glassware to remove the oil at the completion of the study.

As part of their inquiry experience, my students were

expected to exhibit the behaviors of responsible scientists

for safety and laboratory maintenance. After the investigation

was completed, the students pitched in to clean up laboratory

benches, desks, and all equipment and tools used.

                              DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

 

Now that all the data had been recorded and analyzed, it

was time to discuss the results and make some conclusions.

All but one class had the same outcome: skimming appeared to

be the more effective method in removing the oil.

Their hypothesis was, "If an oil spill is simulated and we

compare the methods of skimming and absorbing to

clean up the oil, then we will find that absorbing is a

more effective method because absorbing soaks up the

oil and this is the most common method used in the

history of oil spill clean-ups.”

          Because their findings showed that more oil was collected

          and the water appeared clearer following skimming, they

          decided that the data did not support their hypothesis.

Their successful completion of their research investigation

had enabled them to answer their research question,

"When cleaning up an oil spill, which method, skimming

or absorbing, is most effective for removing the oil?"

Skimming was the most effective means for cleaning up

the oil from the water in their simulated oil spills.

Some of the students were really surprised at the results

of their investigation—they truly believed that absorbing

would collect more oil. But that wasn’t the case in their

research investigation.

One of the possible reasons they discussed for their findings

that did not support their hypothesis was that the absorption method for collecting the oil resulted in too much water being

collected along with the oil. As was mentioned earlier in the background information section, the structure of natural

 

    

           Close-up of oil collected from skimming method

       As you can see from the picture there was quite a bit of water

       that was collected with the oil. The water and oil separated

       from each other leaving the oil sitting on top of the water.

 

cotton makes it hydrophobic (repels water) and oleophilic

(attracts oil). However, we used processed cotton balls in

our investigation and these structural characteristics found

in natural cotton have likely been altered.

Another possibility they discussed was that that since the oil

floated on the surface of the water, it may have been easier to

collect using the skimming method.

 

 

The students were also able to see how sample size and

differences in data among the samples can impact whether

or not a scientist will find a difference in the data collected

in an investigation. One out of 5 medians was relatively high

for the absorbing data for the 6th hour class and the mean

and error were influenced by this data point.

This discussion also easily leads to a review of when to apply

the mean and median as the measurement of the center of a

group of data. The mean-median data typically provide the

smoothest data in science. However, the class mean-median

for a small sample size (5 groups) can still be impacted by an

outlier as was seen for the 6th hour class.

My students discussed what they had learned about how

difficult it was to collect oil from water, especially after it

was mixed together with the simulated waves and currents

produced from the air pump. They had learned about and

were able to discuss and debate in a responsible and

knowledgeable way the different technologies and methods

available for collecting and eliminating oil from the

environment. It was easy for this discussion to relate

directly to what they had learned about the Exxon Valdez

and Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spills and how difficult it is

to clean up the environment following these calamities.

 

             

 

In addition to the process of using scientific inquiry as an

investigation tool, student discussion and conclusions about

their data also included content they had learned previously

in my class and through this inquiry about ecology, man's

impact on the environment, and environmental stewardship.

The students also discussed improvements they would make to

their procedures. In their procedure, the students collected their

data following only about 10 minutes after they had placed the

oil (mixed with water) in the beaker. While they conducted their investigation, a number of students had observed that the oil

continued to separate out over time. Thus, not all of the oil

collected was being included in the data and the period of

wait-time before measuring the amount of oil was very important

or the accuracy of the study! The students decided that they

needed to allow the beaker of collected oil to sit for 24 hours

before measuring the amount of oil in the beaker. The reason

for this is the oil needs some time to separate from the water.

While collecting oil, there will always be some amount of water

collected with it; to ensure a more accurate measurement,

the collected oil needs to sit for longer than about ten

minutes, which is the amount of time that my students had.

 

Also, coloring the water blue with food coloring to try and

resemble the ocean produces a blue tint and made it hard to

decipher where the water and oil are exactly separated from

each other in the beaker. Just plain clear water works the best.

 

                               THE NEXT STEP

 

 

After my students had fully completed the investigation with their discussions and conclusions, they planned what they would do next. The following were the different possibilities that arose.

Replication of the study with improvements:

  • Improving the methods by using natural cotton in place of the processed cotton balls.
 
  • Improving the procedure by increasing the amount of time to let the oil and water separate before measuring the amount of oil collected.

 

  • Reduce the influence of error by increasing the sample size by having more groups of students within each class, or by pulling the data from all of the groups in all of the classes and then analyzing it.

 

 

       

 

 

 

  

Conduct a further investigation:

  • Compare natural to processed cotton to see whether natural, unprocessed cotton will work better than the cotton balls to absorb oil.
 

Gather more background information: about the causes of

oil spills, the environmental damage they can cause, and

clean-up and prevention methods.

 

 

                              

                                              An oil pipeline (Sudan Tribune-Kenya).

 
                                                                                                        NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS ADDRESSED
 
  • Science as Inquiry
    CONTENT STANDARD A:

    As a result of activities in grades 5-8,
    all students should develop
    • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
    • Understanding about scientific inquiry
  • Life Science
    CONTENT STANDARD C:

    As a result of activities in grades 5-8,
    all students should develop understanding of
    • Populations and ecosystems
 
  • Science and Technology
    CONTENT STANDARD E:
    As a result of activities in grades
    5-8, all students should develop
    • Abilities of technological design
    • Understanding about science and technology
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives 
    CONTENT STANDARD F:
    As a result of activities in grades
    5-8, all students should develop understanding of
    • Populations, resources, and environments
    • Risks and benefits
    • Science and technology in society
     
 

 

                                                                              NEW MEXICO CONTENT STANDARDS, BENCHMARKS, & PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

                                                                                                                   SCIENCE Benchmarks Directly Addressed

 
Strand I SCIENTIFIC THINKING AND PRACTICE
Standard I

Understand the processes of scientific investigations and use inquiry and scientific ways of observing, experimenting, predicting, and validating to think critically.

5-8 Benchmark I

Use scientific methods to develop questions, design and

conduct experiments using appropriate technologies,

analyze and evaluate results, make predictions,

and communicate findings.

Grade Performance Standards

                                     

                                       Grade 5

1. Plan and conduct investigations, including formulating

    testable questions, making systematic observations, 
    developing logical conclusions, and communica-

    ting findings.
2. Use appropriate technologies (e.g., calculators,

    computers, balances, spring scales, microscopes) to

    perform scientific tests and to collect and display data.
3. Use graphic representations (e.g., charts, graphs, tables,

    labeled diagrams) to present data and produce

    explanations for investigations.
4. Describe how credible scientific investigations use

    reproducible elements including single variables, controls,

    and appropriate sample sizes to produce valid

    scientific results.
5. Communicate the steps and results of a scientific

    investigation.

                                        Grade 6

1. Construct appropriate graphs from data and develop

    qualitative and quantitative statements about the 

    relationships between variables being investigated.
2. Examine the reasonableness of data supporting a

    proposed scientific explanation.
3. Justify predictions and conclusions based on data.

                                       Grade 7 
1. Use a variety of print and web resources to collect

    information, inform investigations, and answer a scientific
    question or hypothesis.
2. Use models to explain the relationships between

    variables being investigated.

                                        Grade 8 
1. Evaluate the accuracy and reproducibility of data

    and observations.
2. Use a variety of technologies to gather, analyze and

    interpret scientific data.
3. Know how to recognize and explain anomalous data.

                                                  

Strand I SCIENTIFIC THINKING AND PRACTICE
Standard I

Understand the processes of scientific investigations and

use inquiry and scientific ways of observing, experimenting,

predicting, and validating to think critically.

5-8 Benchmark III

Use mathematical ideas, tools, and techniques to understand scientific knowledge.

Grade Performance

Standards

                                     

                                       Grade 5

1. Use appropriate units to make precise and varied

    measurements.
2. Use mathematical skills to analyze data.
3. Make predictions based on analyses of data,

    observations, and explanations.
4. Understand the attributes to be measured in a    

    scientific investigation and describe the units,

    systems, and processes for making

    the measurement.

                                       Grade 6

1. Evaluate the usefulness and relevance of data to

    an investigation.
2. Use probabilities, patterns, and relationships to 

    explain data and observations.


                                        Grade 7 
1. Understand that the number of data (sample size)

    influences the reliability of a prediction.
2. Use mathematical expressions to represent data and

    observations collected in scientific investigations.
3. Select and use an appropriate model to examine

    a phenomenon.

                                        Grade 8 
1. Use mathematical expressions and techniques to

    explain data and observations and to communicate 

    findings (e.g., formulas and equations, significant

    figures, graphing, sampling, estimation, mean).
2. Create models to describe phenomena.

    

 
Strand I SCIENTIFIC THINKING AND PRACTICE                                                  
Standard I

Understand the processes of scientific investigations and use inquiry and

scientific ways of observing, experimenting,predicting, and validating to think critically.

5-8 Benchmark II

Understand the processes of scientific investigations and how

scientific inquiry results in scientific knowledge.

Grade Performance Standards

 

                                       Grade 5

1. Understand that different kinds of investigations are

    used to answer different kinds of questions (e.g.,

    observations, data collection, controlled experiments).
2. Understand that scientific conclusions are subject
to

    peer and public review.

                                        Grade 6

1. Understand that scientific knowledge is continually

    reviewed, critiqued, and revised as new data become

    available.
2. Understand that scientific investigations use
common

    processes that include the collection of relevant data

    and observations, accurate measurements, the

    identification and control of variables, and logical

    reasoning to formulate hypotheses and explanations.
3. Understand that not all investigations result in

    defensible scientific explanations.

                                        Grade 7 
1. Describe how bias can affect scientific

    investigation and conclusions.
2. Critique procedures used to investigate a

    hypothesis.
3. Analyze and evaluate scientific explanations.

                                        Grade 8 
1. Examine alternative explanations for   

    observations.
2. Describe ways in which science differs from other

    ways of knowing and from other bodies of

    knowledge (e.g., experimentation, logical

    arguments, skepticism).
3. Know that scientific knowledge is built on

    questions posed as testable hypotheses, which

    are tested until the results are accepted by

    peers.

           

                        Exxon Valdez - oiled beach at Herring Bay (NOAA.GOV)

Strand II CONTENT OF SCIENCE

Standard II

(Life Science)

Understand the properties, structures, and processes

of living things and the interdependence of living things

and their environments.

5-8 Benchmark I

Explain the diverse structures and functions of living

things and the complex relationships between living

things and their environments.

Grade Performance

Standards

                                     

                                       Grade 5

1. Identify the components of habitats and ecosystems

    (producers, consumers, decomposers, predators).
2. Understand how food webs depict relationships

    between different organisms.
3. Know that changes in the environment can have

    different effects on different organisms (e.g., some

    organisms move, some survive, some reproduce,

    some die).
4. Describe how human activity impacts the

    environment.


                                        Grade 6

1. Understand how organisms interact with their

    physical environments to meet their needs (i.e.,

    food, water, air) and how the water cycle is

    essential to most living systems.
2. Describe how weather and geologic events (e.g.,

    volcanoes, earthquakes) affect the function of

    living systems.
3. Describe how organisms have adapted to various

    environmental conditions.


                                       Grade 7 
Populations and Ecosystems


1. Identify the living and nonliving parts of an

    ecosystem and describe the relationships

    among these components.
2. Explain biomes (i.e., aquatic, desert, rainforest,

    grasslands, tundra) and describe the New

    Mexico biome.
3. Explain how individuals of species that exist

    together interact with their environment to

    create an ecosystem (e.g., populations,

    communities, niches, habitats, food webs).
4. Explain the conditions and resources needed to

    sustain life in specific ecosystems.
5. Describe how the availability of resources and

    physical factors limit growth (e.g., quantity of light

     and water, range of temperature, composition of

    soil) and how the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles

    contribute to the availability of those resources to

    support living systems.

Biodiversity

6. Understand how diverse species fill all niches in

    an ecosystem.
7. Know how to classify organisms: domain, kingdom,

    phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.

                                      Grade 8 
1. Describe how matter moves through ecosystems

    (e.g., water cycle, carbon cycle).
2. Describe how energy flows through ecosystems

    (e.g., sunlight, green plants, food for animals).
3. Explain how a change in the flow of energy can

    impact an ecosystem (e.g., the amount of sunlight

    available for plant growth, global climate change).

 

 

  Students measuring their collected oil and entering the data into

  their data table.                                    

                                          

                              MATHEMATICS Benchmarks Covered or Directly Addressed

 
Strand DATA ANALYSIS AND PROBABILITY
Standard

Students will understand how to formulate questions, analyze data, and determine probabilities.

6-8 Benchmark D.1.

Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them.

Grade Performance

Standards

                                     

                                        Grade 6

D.1.1  Use statistical representations to analyze data.
D.1.3  Use mean, median, mode, and range to describe  

          data.
D.1.5  Solve problems by collecting, organizing, displaying 

          and interpreting data.

D.1.8  Determine the median for a rational number data set

          containing an odd number of data points.

D.1.9 Calculate and explain the median for a whole number

         data set containing an even number of data points.

D.1.10 Explain advantages and disadvantages of using

           various display formats for a specific data set.

D.1.11 Formulate and solve problems by collecting,

           organizing, displaying, and interpreting data.

                                        Grade 7 
D.1.1  Describe how data representations influences

          interpretation.
D.1.2  Select and use appropriate representation for

          presenting collected data and justify the selection.

D.1.3  Use measures of central tendency and spread to

          describe a set of data.

D.1.4  Choose between median and mode to describe a set

          of data and justify the choice for a particular situation.

D.1.13 Analyze problems by identifying relationships,

           distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information, 

           identifying missing information, and selecting,

           collecting, and displaying appropriate data to

           address the problem.

                                        

                                       Grade 8 
D.1.3  Organize, analyze, and display appropriate

          quantitative and qualitative data to address specific

          questions including:

    • plots
    • bar, line, and pie graphs
    • charts and tables

D.1.4  Select the appropriate measure of central tendency

          to describe a set of data for a particular problem

          situation.

       

                     One student group's expected results for comparing the skimming and    

                     absorbing methods for cleaning oil off of the surface of the water.

 
Strand DATA ANALYSIS AND PROBABILITY
Standard

Students will understand how to formulate questions,

analyze data, and determine probabilities.

6-8 Benchmark D.3.

Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are

based on data.

Grade Performance Standards

 

                                         Grade 6

D.3.1  Identify claims based on statistical data and evaluate

           the validity of the claim

D.3.2  Conduct observations, surveys, experiments and/or  

          simulations, record the results in charts, tables, or

          graphs, and use the results to draw conclusions and

          make predictions.

D.3.4  Compare expected results with actual results in a

           simple experiment

                                        Grade 7

D.3.2  Analyze data to make accurate inferences,

          predictions, and to develop

                                        Grade 8

D.3.2  Describe how reader bias, measurement errors,

          and display distortion can affect the interpretation

          of data, predictions, and inferences based on data.

D.3.3  Conduct simple experiments and/or simulations,

          record results in charts, tables, or graphs, and use

          the results to draw conclusions and make predictions.

D.3.4  Compare expected results with experimental results

          and information used in predictions and inferences.

 

Strand DATA ANALYSIS AND PROBABILITY
Standard

Students will understand how to formulate questions, analyze data, and determine probabilities.

6-8 Benchmark D.2.

Select and use appropriate statistical methods to

analyze data.

Grade Performance Standards

 

                                         Grade 6

D.2.1  Choose an appropriate graphical format to

           organize and represent data.

D.2.2  Describe the effects of missing or incorrect data.

D.2.3  Compute and analyze statistical measurements for

           data sets:

    • understand how additional data added to

    data sets may affect the computations of central tendency

    • understand how the inclusion or exclusion of

                     outliers affects measures of central tendency

    • know why a specific measure of central

                     tendency provides the most useful

                     information in a given context

 

D.2.4  Use data samples of a population and describe

           the characteristics and limitations of the sample.

D.2.5  Identify different ways of selecting a sample (e.g.,

          convenience sampling, responses to a survey,

          random sampling) and which method makes a

          sample more representative for a population.

D.2.7  Identify data that represent sampling errors and

          explain why the sample and the display might

          be biased.

D.2.8  Identify claims based on statistical data and, in

          sample  cases, evaluate the validity and

          usefulness of the claims.

                                        Grade 7 
D.2.1  Choose and justify appropriate measures of central

           tendencies (e.g., mean, median, mode, range) to

           describe given or derived data.

D.2.2  Know various ways to display data sets (e.g., stem

          and leaf plot, box and whisker plot, scatter plots)

          and use these forms to display a single set of data

          or to compare two sets of data.

D.2.3  Use the analysis of data to make convincing

          arguments.     

D.2.5  Use data samples of a population and describe the

           characteristics and limitations of the sample.

D.2.6  Identify data that represent sampling errors and

           explain why the sample and the display might

           be biased.

D.2.7  Identify claims based on statistical data and evaluate

           the validity of the claims.

                                        Grade 8 
D.2.2  Generate, organize, and interpret real number

          and other data in a variety of situations.

D.2.3  Analyze data to make decisions and to develop

          convincing arguments from data displayed in a

          variety of formats including:

    • plots
    • distributions
    • graphs
    • charts & tables

D.2.4  Interpret and analyze data from graphical

          representations and draw simple conclusions

D.2.5  Evaluate and defend the reasonableness of

          conclusions drawn from data analysis.

D.2.6  Use appropriate central tendency and spread

          as a means for effective decision-making in

          analyzing data and outliers.

D.2.8  Use appropriate technology to display data as

          lists, tables, matrices, graphs, and plots and to

          analyze the relationships of variables in the data

          displayed.

  

             One student group's expected data graph with estimated statistics (standard error) for    

             comparing the skimming and absorbing methods for cleaning oil off of the surface of

             the water.

 
 
                                                                                                                 TEACHER OBSERVATIONS AND REFLECTIONS
 

 

This RIP scientific inquiry was meant to help my students understand what oil spills do to the ecosystem and how hard it is to clean them up. Within this framework, I expected  my students to achieve a number of benchmarks in science and mathematics shown in the national and state standards tables presented above. At the same time, I wanted to stimulate student interest in a topic that would make them want to know more about the science content involved in their inquiry.

From start to finish, this STEM research investigation took about

four weeks. Engaging in this RIP was a rigorous experience

for the students. However, the gains achieved were well

worth it.

It allowed them to see just how disturbing and detrimental oil

spills are, and helped them to understand that oil spills affect

the environment in many ways. It helped them to realize that

cleaning up an oil spill is not an easy process, but actually a

difficult and time-consuming process that involves many hours

and dedication of hard work. They also found out that when

oil does spill and contaminates water; it cannot be cleaned

up 100% and the aftereffects last for years.

The students developed a profound understanding of the

meaning of environmental stewardship and the impact of

humankind on both aquatic and terrestrial ecology. Completing

this STEM oil spill inquiry has helped open their eyes to what was happening in the Gulf of Mexico due to the oil that is leaking

from an underwater wellhead. They had come to realize that

the oil spill in the Gulf might become the worst oil spill that our nation has ever experienced. They recognized what the

oil is doing to the waters and the wildlife of those creatures inhabiting that environment. They are also aware of the great impact this disturbing oil spill will have on people’s livelihoods

all around the nation and maybe even around the world.

Two important outcomes from my implementing this STEM inquiry

into my curriculum were: students began "thinking out of the

box," and the concepts to which my students were exposed

came alive with meaning. The oil industry is and its consequences are found across environments. Every day in this area of our

state, we are exposed to reminders that oil fields and drilling

are not just in the ocean. This, along with the Gulf oil spill

media coverage, really highlighted the relevance of this

STEM scientific investigation.

Incorporation of the RIP education model into my classroom

has allowed my students to be engaged in their learning,

                                                                                                                               

 

 

 

provided them with a thinking tool to be used to make

decisions, promoted cooperative learning experiences,

fostered in them the ability to think critically, encouraged

and resulted in creativity, and provided them with

opportunities to share their knowledge of concepts with others. All of these activities are incorporated in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as scientific and engineering practices.

The RIP scientific inquiry model of instruction has had a

positive impact on my approach to teaching by allowing me

to be more creative in introducing and teaching new concepts

to my students. My incorporation of this inquiry-based STEM instructional model has allowed flexibility in my teaching.

As for positive learning behavior outcomes, I observed the

excitement in my students as they learned through this inquiry.

They are excited to come to my classroom and learn when they

are involved in a research investigation. This way of learning

stimulates camaraderie among the students. I have observed

students working well cooperatively with one another. I have

also observed allot of critical thinking happening that led

them to good questions and answers, whereas before my

students would just sit and wait for an answer to be

given to them. I was actually able to observe students making

decisions for themselves in a constructive and positive way.

How wonderful it is to see students questioning and actually researching to find an answer on their own!

The data collection, sharing, and analysis involved in this inquiry

was extensive. Most of this was done by my students in one

45 minute class period at my request. Because this proved

somewhat overwhelming for some of my students, I have

decided to extend the amount of time for them to do this

part in the future.

I feel like I am a more effective teacher of science as a result of participating in the RIP program training and using this type of

student-centered instruction. The RIP program has opened my

eyes to so many new things. By incorporating RIP into my

classroom I feel that my confidence level has risen in teaching,

and my knowledge of the concepts I teach has grown tremendously.

My success at using scientific inquiry to achieve these goals

was largely due to my application of the RIP to my teaching

and the ongoing support provided by ANOVA Science and my

colleague, Ricki Colomb, with whom I attended the RIP training.

 

 
 
ADDENDUM FROM ANOVA SCIENCE WEBMASTER
 
 

Oil spills are a tragedy whenever and wherever they occur because of their impact on our environment and its ecosystems. However, inquiry-based instruction in elementary and secondary education can capture valuable learning opportunities from such catastrophic events that result in positive outcomes. These have immediate impact on student learning and possible future impact on how these students understand and handle environmental stewardship. Equally important, seizing such opportunities to imbed STEM into the classroom learning experience may well lead to motivating students to pursue further education in STEM fields.

Students from this middle school level Featured RIP-Based Inquiry as well as from our previously Featured kindergarten RIP-Based Inquiry were motivated to action by the occurrence of and devastation caused by oil spills. They learned more about these events by applying the four STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields in their investigations. In this seventh grade RIP inquiry, students explored the impact of a simulated oil spill that they made occur in their model oceans with shorelines. They compared two methods (technologies) to determine which would work the best for trying to clean the oil off of the surface of the water. In the kindergarten RIP inquiry, the students compared various methods (technologies) for cleaning up a simulated oil spill and applied what they learned in their research investigation by designing and building their own model technology for cleaning up ocean oil spills. Students are not only learning about the use of models in describing scientific concepts, but also are using models to conduct their own investigations into concepts about the natural world.

The creativity that resulted from student interest in this topic is obvious, as is the fervor in which they tackled a project that involved a high level of rigor in the designing of the investigation, the conducting of the study, and the mathematics involved in the data analysis used to provide the evidence they needed to support their decisions about their hypotheses. And although the investigations were challenging and really made students apply their thinking, they still enjoyed them immensely. Anonymous assessments were given to Ms. Miller’s seventh grade students at the end of the year to determine their attitudes towards learning science through RIP scientific inquiry. At the end of  the school year, 97% of Ms. Miller’s students wrote ONLY positive statements

 

describing their experiences in learning science that included “fun," "intriguing," "like learning about the earth," "more discoveries to make," "learn new things," and "lots of interesting things to learn.” Compared to 85% at the beginning of the year prior to their learning through scientific inquiry, 91% percent of her students said they would like to learn more science at the end of the year. The students supported their positive attitude towards learning science with reasons for them, such as “I like science because it causes thinking,’ “in science, we can learn how we can help our planet,” “science if cool,” “I would like to learn more because you can do some exciting things,” and “I would want to because it’s fun doing the Research Investigation Process.” It is obvious that Ms. Miller’s students are already achieving the National Science Education Standards (NSES) “Goal I: Experience the richness and excitement of knowing about and understanding the natural world.”

There is much current debate as to whether the ocean is purging itself and the BP oil spill disappearing largely on its own (through microbial feeding and evaporation), or whether the oil is just sitting non-detectably in large and small plumes below the surface of the Gulf’s water, both which may or may not lead to longterm, far reaching consequences on the Gulf’s ecosystems. Regardless of whether or not the oil in the Gulf of Mexico is dissipating or just not being detected, the more background information gathered and understood by the students through their research investigations, the more they are able to achieve “Goal III” of the NSES: “Engage intelligently in public discourse and debate about matters of scientific and technological concern.” Perhaps learning how prevalent oil mishaps are is important enough of a lesson and contribution to the likelihood that the future stewardship of these elementary and secondary students will make a major and lasting impact on the Earth and its ecosystems.

Clearly the students involved in this investigation were deeply involved in using the scientific and engineering practices described in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as they pursued the answer to their research question.

Note: Technically speaking, the PB oil spill may be best described as an oil "gusher." The oil was not "spilled" into the ocean from a holding source, but was shooting out of the earth naturally and entering the ocean directly from a pipe in a hole that had been drilled into the earth.

 

 

 

 
 
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