Interactive science lessons are a critical part of effective teaching, according to Karen Love, a sixth-grade science teacher at Sunflower, in the Shawnee Mission School District. For this reason and many more, she is pleased to use the JASON Project curriculum in her classroom.
Love used the Mysteries of Earth and Mars curriculum last school year and this year she is piloting Monster Storms. Monster Storms helps students examine the earth's weather events, including hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms, while they learn the scientific processes that create them.
Online components complement the curriculum with digital labs, videos, and colorful handouts for the students. But by far the most enticing part of the curriculum for Love and her students is the scientist connection. A working scientist is introduced in each unit. Students learn about the work these scientists conduct, inventions they have overseen, and how their work impacts the world.
"I've always used hands on science, but the difference here is the real person connection they are getting," said Love, a 22-year veteran of the teaching field.
Though students meet the scientists through the book, Love had one-on-one interaction with a number of them through the 2006 JASON Action Summit held in July in Washington, D.C.
"I was able to meet many of the scientists and now I can relay the stories they told me to my students," Love said. "It has made quite an impact on them. I have had a couple of kids tell me that they want to be meteorologists when they grow up."
But for now, they are all scientists in the classroom conducting an experiment that Love initiated to reinforce the unit. Each has a lab assignment: equipment, communication, or procedure specialist.
When creating their mini water cycles each student had a hand in drawing the components that impact the process on their plastic bag: the land, clouds, sun, mountains, ocean or rain. Just like scientists, they asked questions, "What's this part of the cycle called? What happens here? Don't we need more clouds?" Then they filled a plastic cup with water and tucked it in the bottom corner (a drop of food coloring was added to the water to make it easier to trace the water's path). The bags were then hung with clothespins from a rope by the window.
The students estimated how long it might take the process to come full circle. But each one left with a deeper understanding of why the water cycle is so important. One student summed it up simply.
"If we didn't have the water cycle, we couldn't live," she said.