Project-Based Science  

Physics and biology students are collaborating in MVHS schools across Maryland to model one mechanism through which alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of an accident. The biology students who have worked with a model of alcohol metabolism share their information about blood alcohol content (BAC) with physics students. But the physics students need to know how BAC changes reaction rate, an important factor in the tailgating model used to analyze safe car following behavior. Thus, the biology students are sent back to the drawing board to extend their model.

Such activities contain the elements of project based science in which students "a) construct multiple representations of their understanding b) work on authentic contextualized problems... c) collaborate in a community of learners and d) use cognitive tools to construct and represent knowledge." (Marx, Blumenfeld et al, 1994, pp. 517-518) Typically, students working in teams over several days or weeks employ a variety of solutions to the problems which they are modeling. This frequently requires doing background research (such as finding out how BAC effects reaction rate), performing experiments and gathering data to incorporate into their models. Sometimes the opportunity arises to connect students with an outside mentor from industry, research or a government agency. Students frequently present their results by posting web pages and linking them to project pages from other schools.

Sample Models

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