First PBL experience

My students are currently working on completing their first science project based learning unit. One of our standards in 5th grade is that students are able to identify the land forms that are present in our state. In order to make this a hands on project and experience for them I have based our learning around this essential question.

“How can I as a civil engineer design a light rail system that goes from Idaho Springs to Aurora Colorado taking into account the land forms and environments along the way.”

By posting this question I was able to address important vocabulary and spark interest. Entering the project I thought “Hey, this will be easy for them because they already have knowledge of the light rail and they learned land form skills in 4th grade”. Boy, was I wrong!

I have quickly realized that my students lack an understanding of basic geography. In order to answer this question they must be able to locate Idaho Springs and Aurora on a Colorado map. Many of my students had never used a “real map” before. I knew that this was something I needed to get into their hands! I got maps from AAA travel agency donated and we were off! I created an awesome map scavenger hunt for them! While it was very challenging my students now know how to locate different things on a map!

We are not yet finished with this project but I am excited for the new phase, “How to map out the light rail”.

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