When school starts again next week, eighth grade students at both Central and West Middle Schools in Muscatine will get to experiment with the effects of weather on air quality in an innovative and hands-on way. A $500 Bridgestone Bandag Classroom of the Quarter grant earned by eighth grade science teachers Janine Arnold, Kelly Beale, Katie Castillo, Erin Fox, and Pam Joslyn will help the teachers put this exciting new project into action.
Joslyn, who wrote the grant, outlined the goals of the experiment. “They are going to be tying in weather and pollution. They’re going to learn what causes air pollution. They’re going to get to be citizen scientists.” Over the course of the experiment, students will place air quality monitors around the city to collect data. They will then check these monitors after major weather events (such as when it snows or rains) to see if air pollution increases or decreases.
After collecting pollution data, students will learn how environmental engineers create technologies that can capture different types of pollutants to improve air quality. Using what they learned, students will then create pollution trapping devices of their own. Once they have made their inventions, they will pitch them to local engineers.
When deciding on an experiment to use with their students, the eighth-grade science teachers chose this one because it ties into their learning standards and provides many real-world connections. In particular, the teachers hope their students will see the links between creating pollution capturing technology and helping people live healthier lives.
By gathering air quality data outside instead of doing an experiment in a lab, students will get to experience how professional scientists must work with data that is not cut and dried to draw conclusions. Joslyn finds many curriculums include simplified data, so she appreciates students getting to see for themselves what raw field data really looks like.
Students will also get to compare the data they collect with other air quality data from around the state, nation, and world, helping them gain knowledge of conditions around the world and efforts to improve them. “We want them to be more environmentally aware,” explained Arnold.
As an added benefit, students will also get to connect what they learn in science to other subjects. For instance, when they pitch their air cleaning devices to professional engineers, they will use some of the speaking and listening skills they practice both in science and in language arts.
Through this addition to their curriculum, the science teachers at both Central and West look forward to fostering more collaboration between the schools as they get ready to combine into one. “I think the thing that sets this apart is as the two middle schools are merging, we wanted to make sure it was a project that could engage both schools,” shared Beale.