RE@L’s Systemic Changes Lead to RE@L’s First “SYS-STEM-IC” Learning Product STEM Investigation: Water Quality!
Imagine a new way to learn, with a new space for learning in our schools. Inside, find team-rooms instead of classrooms. Outside, you will find real-world problems like safe drinking water.
There’s a poem many of us studied in school called “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” with a famous line: “Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.” No, it’s not that bad yet, but most of the water in the world right now is undrinkable. The oceans are too salty, and much of what used to be fresh water is often polluted.
There are some affordable solutions for water purification and RE@L will report on these in future blogs. Right now, we need to teach students real-world skills in how to find water pure enough to drink. So, imagine instead a totally new learning space. A Team Room, not a Classroom, where learners form teams and work together to solve real-world problems, on their way to learning new knowledge.
Imagine learning teams researching and reporting answers to questions for a world in which today’s students live. Learners live in a world that needs new ways to find new answers to these new questions. Like water quality. These new K12 learning teams will need to know how to find these real-world answers to tomorrow’s questions..
What does RE@L bring to these new “Team-Rooms” that truly helps?
We have very good news for STEM schools! RE@L will be developing and releasing innovative STEM software products, near a dozen in number, from Water Quality to Dairy Farm to Table to Forensics…. to many more STEM Investigations. A host of new RE@L products are forthcoming, and more good ideas will soon be in the RE@L idea hopper.
Our new RE@L software is not designed solely for a traditional, box-shaped classroom, filled with 30-40 moveable desks. No, imagine with us a new learning space. A Team-Room, not a Class-Room. And with Team-Tables and not just desks. It’s new a environment where learners of differing abilities form teams and work together against the common cause of dispelling ignorance and finding new knowledge.
Not just any new knowledge. But today’s knowledge that requires team-researching, team-doing, team-finding and team-reporting….new knowledge to answer key questions from the world in which today’s students now live.
Students today live in a world that needs new answers to these new questions. So, these new student learning teams must know how to find these answers.
Looking to create this new Team-Room of the future in your classroom? Look no further than the activities of RE@L’s new STEM-based, systemic, project-based, hands-on, team-driven Water Quality (WQ). RE@L has added a powerful plus to our RE@L Water Quality learning product: our RE@L-TIME Portal. No other software we know has this new and powerful tool. It’s the catalyst to today’s more complex learning challenges.
This new RE@L-Time Portal, seen nowhere else but as part and parcel of RE@L’s new STEM products, allows teachers and students ready access to resources that serve as a unique catalyst to teaching and learning. WQ instructors will have access to teacher training, course materials, lesson plans, various and helpful media resources, rubrics and assessment tools to assure higher student mastery of their hands-on unit.
This upcoming new school year, next fall, WQ students will be able to find the course materials all online. Additional and supplemental resources will be provided to better achieve course goals: contacting other subject matter experts around the world with both audio- and video-conferencing. Students can post their questions and also their WQ findings to share their research with others, wherever they are.
These new explorative, hands-on, heads-on product is being brought to you by the same box-breaking, brain-trust that brought MECC’s Oregon Trail to the classroom over 40 years ago. RE@L still knows what works to make learning both interesting and lasting.
Oregon Trail™, commonly known as OT, was successful as a hands-on, heads-on learning simulation. It was played around the world, much to the delight of the students who tried to survive the months long journey from St. Joe Missouri to Oregon. It wasn’t just a “game”, it was a learning experience. It was also a learning experience that, for most players, it has survived in their positive memory banks for going on over 40 years, now. That’s what you call Learning with a capital L! Oh, yes, it was developed by our Executive VP Don Rawitsch. Well, he’s back at it again. See below.
As that old saying goes, “I hear and and I forget; I see and I remember; but when I do, I understand.” It’s the “doing” that RE@L STEM products are built around. Students and their Learning Teams must “show they know” the issues surrounding and the importance of WQ both in their world, and in the worlds of others with the same goals. RE@L listens to both teachers and kids. RE@L even has its own Student Spokes-Kid, Sam who helps us focus on kids’ needs and also helps tell our RE@L stories. Click THIS LINK to hear what Sam has to say!
RE@L is about ready to release a new hands-on, team-based, real-world exploration of water quality around them. By this coming fall, both teachers and students will be using RE@L’s new WQ software, including helpful resources more quickly accessed than ever before.
Learning will happen both inside and outside the Team-Room. If there is no lake or river or water-shed nearby, students and their teachers can access virtual water sources on their STEM computers and mobile devices.
Want a scenario? Here’s one: We may find WQ students who go to school near Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota. They can find the trickling beginning of the great Mississippi River and report on its water quality. Then, other learning teams take samples in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, where the Great River travels downstream. Sampling can occur all the way to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. Water, water, everywhere….but is it fit to drink?
What’s happened to that great gift of good water? Is it still drinkable and safe? Have chemicals from fertilizing contaminated it? Can the water be made safe to drink again? If your Team-Room is exploring your water samples, what contaminants do you find? What results do you see from your testing? What do other Learning Teams down this mighty river find? Is the water purer again or worse? What about the nearby lakes and streams?
So what goes on in these new team-rooms with these new learning teams?
Here’s how RE@L’s new STEM Water Quality product will work for teachers and the new WQ Learning Teams. Thanks to Executive VP of Product Development, Don Rawitsch, for this description of a new venture in the life of a STEM WQ Learning Team:
- Teacher discusses the issue of water pollution with the class, using a RE@L slide deck to show key issues.
- Outside of school, the teacher and some volunteer students visit several water sites (lakes, streams, rivers, ponds) in the community to collect water location samples in large containers.
- Teacher explains the nine water tests the students will use to collect different types of data, using a RE@L slide deck. Students are shown the items from the RE@L Water Testing Kit (tablets, test tubes, thermometers, etc) that they will use.
- Students working in pairs or triads will perform each of the water tests on each water location sample and record the data in a RE@L Student Worksheet.
- Teacher introduces students to the Water Quality Index (WQI), an arithmetic process used on the water sample data to produce a single quality value on a 0 to 100 scale for each water sample.
- The students are introduced to the RE@L Geographic Information System (GIS), its purpose and how to use it, using the RE@L GIS Student Guide and Practice Exercises.
- The students enter their water test data into the RE@L GIS, which matches the data to water collection locations on an aerial map of the community.
- The students examine the patterns of data on the map as the GIS performs the WQ calculations, including both the data they entered and that entered by other classes, past and present.
- Students note how different types of pollution match up to the ways the nearby land is being used.
- Students engage in a video conference with a water management expert, using the RE@L View Portal system. The expert can respond to the student’s reporting of results and their questions, and describe what she enjoys about her career and how she prepared for it.
- Teacher facilitates student discussion of what they discovered and ideas they have for lowering their community’s pollution levels. They could also use RE@L View to compare results and ideas with a class in another community or state that is also conducting the Water Quality.
Notice how the initial activities (Steps 1-5) are more teacher-led to give students the knowledge and tools they need. The activities calling for higher level thinking (Steps 6-11) are more student-driven as they utilize the knowledge and tools to create their own analyses and potential solutions.
See the graphic at the right for a listing of higher order skills: 11 new steps to learning that involve doing. Learning that will last life long.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see that these new STEM students will hear, see and do. Beyond that enriched learning, they will also learn real-world STEM-based skills for the world they will work in and find their careers.
Even better news is that there’s more to come.
RE@L will be bringing it to STEM Learning-Team Rooms everywhere.