More than One Way to Learn
In most traditional approaches to science education, teachers present information to students in lectures and guided demonstrations. The Center for Learning Technologies in Urban Schools presents a new way of teaching and learning – project-based science. In project-based science, students’ inquiries into the world around them drive their explorations. They ask meaningful questions and conduct their own scientific projects to find answers. Teachers serve as resources and guides, but let students obtain and analyze information in their own ways.
LeTUS curricula address essential science content, such as the mechanisms of tectonic plate movement or the transfer of energy, but the similarity to traditional science units ends there. In project-based science, students try to answer a driving question that has local and personal implications. For example, the question, “Why do I need to wear a helmet when I ride my bicycle?” provides a real-life context for learning difficult science content such as motion, force, velocity and energy transfer. LeTUS curricula meet both content and process objectives in the course of answering meaningful questions.
Contextualizing content is an explicit goal of project-based science. In relating the questions to their own lives, students learn the science content they need to know. In lieu of organizing its units around objectives like learning chemistry principles, LeTUS instead focuses on meeting content objectives in the context of doing the projects.
Developing a new LeTUS curriculum follows a three-step process: designing a curriculum, using it in the classroom and revising it as necessary in response to the classroom experience. Curricula developed this way are both grounded in theory and practical in the classroom.
Researchers from the University of Michigan and Northwestern University and teachers from Chicago and Detroit join forces in collaborative work circles to develop lessons and software to convey specific science content. Drawing on participants’ knowledge of educational theory and their real-world classroom experience, work circles are able to keep curricula and technology appropriate for student learning.
Researchers observe teachers using a curriculum in their classrooms in order for both to determine the effective parts of the curriculum and identify segments in need of revision. In turn, teachers and researchers benefit from seeing the curriculum in action.
Observations, teacher interviews and focus-group feedback inform the revision process, in which teachers take a more active role in drafting and incorporating. Combining real-world teaching practice and basic pedagogical theory makes LeTUS’ approach to science education truly unique.
Access to Tools
The critical thinking and computer skills developed in LeTUS curricula prepare students for a world in which computer skills are increasingly essential for success. Access to computer tools, including extensive databases; software for collecting, analyzing, and visualizing data; and the Internet can make all the difference for many students.
Curricula at a glance
To go directly to a curriculum page, click on the title below. You can also go directly to a curriculum unit’s supporting technology by clicking on its name.
|Curriculum||Science Content||Driving Question||Grade||Technology|
|Air Quality||Chemical and physical properties of pollutants.||What affects the quality of the air in my community?||7th|
Tool Soup Pasco Probes
|Behavior Matters||Animal behavior, conservation principles and scientific method.||What is animal behavior, how do we study it and how does it relate to conservation? ||7th|
|Animal Landlord |
|Bike Helmet||Motion, force, velocity, acceleration||Why do I need to wear a helmet when I ride my bike?||7th|
| Interactive physics, Motion Sensors|
|Communicable Diseases||The biology of disease, how diseases spread and how our bodies fight them. Also covers STDs.||Can my friends make me sick?||7th|
| Disease Detectives|
Biology of Cellular Structures and Functions, Energy Processes of Living Things, and Chemistry of Biological Processes in the context of solving a medical mystery
| Is there a common problem with the people in Village Park? If so, what is it and what will you do about it?|| 8th, 9th and 10th || Village Park Mystery|
|Earth Structures and Processes||Earth’s crust, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, latitude and longitude, modeling, map reading, geography.||How will the movement of tectonic plates affect the Earth’s crust?||6th|
Database, Progress Portfolio
|Global Warming||Temperature, energy balance, population, and carbon emissions.||Why do scientists think people are making the Earth's climate warmer?||7th and 8th||WorldWatcher|
|I, Bio||Cells, energy, transformation, organ systems, human biology, heath, physiology, physics, cell structure and function||How well do my school lunch choices meet my body's energy needs?||7th and 8th||Pasco Probes|
|Kids as Global Scientists (KGS)|| Clouds and humidity, wind, temperature, precipitation and pressure, energy transfer, Earth as a system. ||What makes our weather?||4th through 9th||Internet|
| Looking at the environment (LATE)|| Geographic perspective on environmental science; environmental issues at local regional and global scales; resources for supporting human activities, energy and water. |How can we build a school so that it doesn't destroy a local tortoise population?
What type of alternative energy is the best match for the resources available in this area?
How can we balance the supply of water with the demand from farmers and residents in a watershed?
|9th through 12th|| WorldWatcher and My World |
| Planetary Forecaster|| Curvature of the Earth's surface, the tilt of Earth's axis, land/water differences in specific heat, surface elevation|
What are the major factors that affect surface temperature and how do each of these factors affect temperature?
|6th through 8th|
WorldWatcher and Progress Portfolio
|Simple Machines||Force, motion, distance, simple machines||How can I use machines to help me build big things?|| 7th, 8th||Force and Motion Sensors|
|Solar Energy||Energy transfer, heat transfer, renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, insulation||Can you design a habitable house using only passive solar energy?|| 6th, 7th, 8th||Passive Solar House Simulator|
|Struggle for Survival||Complex ecosystems, natural selection, species interaction.||What is causing an island ecosystem crisis, and how are some animals managing to survive? ||6th and 7th|
The Galapagos Finches
|Water Quality||Watersheds, erosion and deposition, how chemistry and biology affect water quality.||What is the water quality like in our river? ||7th|| Model-It, Pasco Probes|
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