Sixth Grade Projects : Earth Science
The organizing theme for sixth grade educational content is experimenting to better understand the scientific method. These include greenhouse projects that allow students to experiment with soil fertility and plant growth relationships, and soil pH and plant growth. The first project is intended to provide the students with an understanding about the effects of fertilizer applications on crop by simulating the effects of over and under applications. The second project is intended to to provide students an understanding of how soils can be reclaimed under altered conditions. These experiments involved having students examine the relationship between a variety of pH soils, seed germination, and plant growth. Students use traditional methods (eg pH paper, litmus paper, etc.) and technology (eg analog and digital pH meters) to examine pH of solutions and soil pH, and use both quantitative and qualitative methods for data analysis. These experiments provide students the context to understand what happens to soils as a result of extractive or erosive processes. At the conclusion of each experiment, we provide an overview of the experiment analyzing the student's data as a whole to introduce data analysis, probabilities, and data interpretation. Throughout the experiment, collected data is used in the classroom to introduce data collection techniques, graphing, and associated terminology. The final sixth-grade project engages students in the relationship between weather and wind energy production. To facilitate inquiry-based learning, students build wind turbine kits. During the process, students examine the physical processes involved in the transfer, change, and conservation of energy from weather related events. The turbine models allow students to interact with the technology, discuss its potential to provide power, understand the relationships between wind speed and power production, measure power production, and observe the technology in a variety of uses (eg to power a pump or power a light series).
Seventh Grade Projects : Life Science
The organizing theme for seventh grade educational content is agroecology. Students are engaged in the field through topics covering: pollination, integrated pest management and crop rotations, soil fertility management, genetic diversity and resources, and environmental factors affecting crop growth. Hands-on activities complement these topics (eg soil sampling, seed saving techniques, weather monitoring, etc). Through an educational partnership with the Tierra y Montes Soil and Water Conservation District, students receive in-field training on how to identify noxious weeds and noxious weed management strategies. Two greenhouse experiments are conducted simultaneously. The first is a year-long study of cherry tomato production in a greenhouse setting. Students explore the horticultural and economic implications of growing tomatoes in a greenhouse by conducting a greenhouse-based research project on growing tomatoes and examining the relationship between potting media and tomato variety type. Using different media types allows students to gain a visual understanding of variability and understand that plant growth is not uniform, leading to tomato yield implications. Students encounter problems many growers encounter (eg disease, insect infestation, etc) and have to find solutions to their problems. Throughout the experiment, the science teachers use data in class having students analyze and report their results. I provide an overview of the experiment analyzing the student's data as a whole to examine trends in the data set, test data statistically for differences between and within groups, report findings, and draw conclusions. The second study is a basic study of monocot and dicot plant physiology that incorporates lab work on cellular structure and flower physiology.
Eighth Grade Projects : Physical Science
The organizing theme for eighth grade educational content is emerging agricultural and natural resource issues. Programming is primarily focused on renewable energy and water conservation. Content delivery on renewable energy includes: an introduction to photovoltaic (pv) systems, pv system types, grid-tied pv systems, and an economic analysis of pv use. Through the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resource Department "Schools with Sol" funding for a solar demonstration panel at the Center, from which the greenhouse receives 25% of its daily electrical needs, students are able to learn about renewable energy. This campus system allows students to see pv components (eg panel, inverter, etc) and monitor energy production. In the classroom, students are engaged in two primary activities: assessing their electricity footprint and building solar model cars. These activities provide the students an understanding of the differences between renewable and nonrenewable energy types, that electrical energy is the flow of electrons through electrical conductors that connect sources of electrical energy to points of use, and how their choices impact energy consumption. Water conservation has primarily focused on irrigation systems in the field using the acequia, and water capture, storage and reuse. In the former, we demonstrate multiple irrigation systems and evaluate for efficiency. In the latter case, we demonstrate water capture and evaluate impacts on conservation efforts. This upcoming year we plan to include bioengineering and bio fuel production in programming efforts.