This is the second blog entry from ISTE, about a poster project to study the water conditions in the Arthur Kill in New Jersey. Theproject is being conducted by the John E. Dwyer Technology Academy of Elizabeth, NJ. I talked with Javier Valencia and Jeff Roszkowski who are directing the program. It's a great story, but with one nagging detail, something that actually makes my blood curdle. Let's get that out of the way first.
The reason this is called the Oyster project is that the school's intention is to place Oysters in the estuary, just off Staten Island, to see how they cleaned up the water supply. But, the oyster industry objected, afraid that the high school might sell the oysters and compete with them. They lobbied the state government. We can all predict the result: the high school was prohibited from using planting the oysters. The good news, even about this, is that the school is working on setting up partnerships with schools in Maryland along the Chesapeak bay, where they can follow through on this part of the project.
This was a joint project of the math, science, and English classes. Students learned the math to analyze the variations over time, and learned how to write up reports and make presentation of their findings. The English teacher commented that the students are writing much better, because they are now writing because they want to, about a topic that they are excited about.
Students uploaded their data to Future City, so that classrooms all over the world can analyze the data, and compare it their own water quality measurements.
In one example, students noticed the turbidity was greater in certain areas than others. They learned to posit theories about why, which factors influenced the turbidity (boating, runoff, rivers). They found a correlation between proximity to drainage pipes and proximity to industrial shipping to turbidity. The interesting factor is that the Arthur Kill Baykeeper had no data, and the information that has been and continues to be gathered by the high schoolers is helping them formulate action plans to clean up the estuary.
This project was partially funded through a grant from Hewlett Packard, which has been showing an enlightened approach to helping education.
Let's hope that this model for integrating 21st century skills with math, science, and English Language Arts becomes the norm for schools.