Byrd Parents Help Bring Science to Life

Filed under: Duncanville ISD,Schools |

Students at Byrd Middle School were given the opportunity to create their own miniature tornadoes during a recent Project Based Learning experience, thanks to parents’ generous donations of supplies, money, and time.

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“It was so cool!  I could imagine a real tornado, and learned firsthand how they are formed when cold and hot air mixes!” exclaimed seventh-grade student Brenda Arana.  Brenda and her classmates worked in groups to add hot water and dry ice to their tornado chambers, then control the flow of air through the chambers with fans. With wide-eyed amazement, they watched the one-and-a-half-foot tall funnels form.

The project was part of a PBL unit organized by seventh-grade science teacher Megan Jones and math teacher Olish Allen to help students learn about the power of catastrophic events, analyzing the effects of weathering, erosion, and deposition on the environment. Students visited several classroom centers throughout the day where they conducted hands-on experiments to investigate how floods, drought, and erosion affect ecosystems.

Jones says it’s an experience that would have never been possible without the help of parents. “There was such an outpouring of support when I sent out an email asking for assistance. Within two days, we had the supply list completely covered,” she says. The generous donations resulted in the construction of two tornado chambers that were three feet high by one foot wide. The chambers were built to provide students with a controlled environment to conduct wind experiments and create mini-cyclones.

The learning experience didn’t end with the construction and use of the tornado chambers.  Students also discovered how these types of catastrophes have affected populations throughout history.  By reading newspaper clippings, charts, and graphs, and by watching short videos in their PBL groups, students identified examples of the ways these events impact people.  “We learned what tornadoes, floods, and droughts are and how they can affect everybody,” says student Daijah Dupree.

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Teachers Jones and Allen feel that the engagement between teachers, parents, and students gave everyone a valuable chance to see and understand Project Based Learning.  “It is such a wonderful thing for me as a teacher to truly partner with parents in their child’s education,” says Jones.
Students like Sophia Puterbaugh had the same level of engagement in the project. Watching a cyclone she and her group created snake slowly upward in a tornado chamber is an experience she won’t forget anytime soon.  “I think PBLs like this are fun, because you get to explore and you get to learn about things you normally wouldn’t get to in the traditional classroom, or even in real life!”