DEVELOPING A GEOSCIENCE-FOCUSED PROJECT BASED LEARNING ASSESSMENT FOR EIGHTH GRADE STEM EDUCATION
One activity has been an experiment to examine the effects of iron fertilization on marine diatom growth and CO2 uptake. The class teacher and St. Mary’s faculty collaborated to develop a basic experimental framework for the purposes of ordering equipment, materials and supplies. The implementation and refinement of specific experiments, however, were largely driven by the students. Students worked in small, collaborative groups to design the experiment, often coming up with innovative solutions to unexpected logistical challenges. One example of the students’ ingenuity in the first year was to use commercially available robotics toys to develop an oscillator to keep the test reactors well-mixed. Unfortunately, in the first year of the course, the experiment ended prematurely when the only sampling syringe was accidentally dropped before the students could collect significant data.
The students in the second year offering of the class have benefitted from the learning experience of the previous students. They are now preparing their diatom cultures and test reactors to begin the experiment. While the effect of iron fertilization has been examined in large-scale ocean experiments, we are not aware of a similar bench-top scale experiment, especially one designed predominantly by 8th grade boys and girls.