Scientists, Kids and Teachers (SKIT)
University of Illinois at Chicago
Two graduate fellows report on their experiences. Santina Wortman describes the challenge of making environmental science concepts relevant to urban students who are essentially cut off from nature. They need opportunities to connect with their natural urban environment in order to overcome this challenge which is why I made this the goal for my work with students in a Chicago public high school. Our study of ecosystems will culminate with a 1-2 week field study of the vacant lot across the street from the school. Students will learn first-hand about the ecology of the vacant lot by collecting data through observations and experiments. My hope is that the environmental science concepts we have learned over the course of the year, such as biodiversity, components of ecosystems, and ecological succession, will become more meaningful for the students as they apply them to their own neighborhood. Fellow Michelle Kerr implemented a week of activities centered on the concept of density for three classes of 6th graders in a Chicago Public School. Students found the densities of two minerals—a fundamental exercise to the concept of density. They conducted a “sink or float” exercise with various objects, intended to highlight influences (or no influence) on density such as shape, weight, surface area, etc. Then she invited students to design vessels that would float and hold as many pennies as possible. The Boat Float was intended to be fun and to help students apply what they had learned about density. The children discussed what they knew about density before they began, drew a design of their vessels, then built and tested them with pennies. After the Boat Float, they analyzed their designs based on the results.