Teaching (Economics?) ’til the Last Minute

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This is our final week of school here in the Sylvan District. I’ve done my best to try to “teach until the last minute.” It seems to keep kids a little more calm and honestly I prefer teaching over babysitting. In all reality for my 8th grade classes much of my teaching was finished when we took the STAR test in late April/early May. Shhh…don’t tell anyone. 😀

Since then I have tried to fill our time with meaningful science-based projects that involve the traditional curriculum, some scientific thinking, and current events. As anyone who has been following this blog for long knows, my students recently completed a Car of the Future project based on NOVA’s Car of the Future program. The results were pretty awesome. Of course, there are a few things I will change next year, but it was quite fulfilling watching my 8th graders debate the merits and disadvantages to alternative methods for powering vehicles. Overall, most of my students agreed that fuel cells should be the cars of the future with a transition period that involved some sort of hybrid vehicle. I wonder if my students next year will reach the same conclusion?

Building on their new found knowledge of alternative fuels and desire to use less (that sprung up during the Car of the Future Projects), today we watched National Geographic’s Human Footprint program. If you didn’t have an opportunity to view it on Earth Day, I would definitely check out some of the online videos on the site or YouTube. There is also a pretty handy educator’s guide. Before starting the movie, though, I handed each and everyone student a copy of “Eight Reasons You’ll Rejoice When we Hit $8-a-Gallon Gasoline.” What a lively conversation this sparked! It was interesting to hear how many families are already making changes in their driving habits – parking the SUV in favor of the smaller sedan, refusing to drive students to school when they can walk, combining trips, carpooling, and using public transit. Modesto is quite car-centric (remember this is where American Graffiti took place), so these changes are quite dramatic for some families. Personally, I thought the conversation was quite timely since I saw my first $5-a-gallon sign this morning, GM announced its closing 4 SUV/truck producing plants, and California High Speed Rail is supposed to make it to the November ballot. Speaking of California High Speed Rail, there are some great animation/videos in the gallery section if you’re interested in talking about it with your students.

Happy last week or so!

Joe

Photo: Five Dollar Gas by Steven Damron

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