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 In this Section:  In the Spotlight News

List of "In the Spotlight" Features

Students at Stewart Doing "Real World" Science

Mrs. Van Doren and her students at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Florida are fully engaged in Signals of Spring this year. The NASA Explorer school maintains the vision of "developing independent, life-long learners, through explorations in math, science, and technology." Signals of Spring helps students and teachers achieve this vision through engaging lessons and real-time data.

Mrs. Van Doren teaches elective science classes focused on offering authentic hands-on experiences for her students. This year, her 7th and 8th grade students are tracking Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Sandhill Cranes, Black Storks, porcupine Caribou, and other animals. One students comments, "This is a great project. Using the website is a unique experience. It's fun to log in and see where your animal has traveled every day." Another student adds, "This experience has been very educational. I am a weather expert. I found out about the adiabatic lapse rate online, then Mrs. Van Doren did a lesson about it with the whole class."

Part of the science education at Stewart Middle Magnet includes field trips and interactions with "real world" scientists. Mrs. Van Doren's students recently presented their research at the Museum of Science and Industry, using PowerPoint presentations and wall displays. "My students were amazing," commented Mrs. Van Doren, "They have a great stage presence." The audience included 5th and 6th grade students whom the 8th grade students mentored throughout the school year. "Mentoring younger students makes the 8th graders more serious about what they are doing. They are very mature and the younger students love working with them," explains Mrs. Van Doren.

In addition to student presentations, the field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry included presentations from the principal of Stewart Middle Magnet and University of South Florida research scientist, Remy Luerssen. Ms. Luerssen and her collegues visit Mrs. Van Doren's students regularly to help teach about satellite telemetry and scientific research. The partnership with the University of South Florida is an extension of the work that students do with Signals of Spring. When scientists like Ms. Luerssen visit, they bring examples of satellite transmitters that would be attached to an animal for students to see. "We do activities with the students, walk them through the data, show them how to put together PowerPoint presentations, and discuss the importance of satellite data," explains Ms. Luerssen. "It is wonderful to see students involved in the projects. They are so excited about their species and about science." Ms. Luerssen and her collegues donate their time with students because they feel strongly about the importance of outreach and education.

"I personally think that this curriculum has challenged my students," comments Mrs. Van Doren, who has received positive support for the program from the school administration. "So often our lessons or research are set up so that [students] are handed everything they need to do the assignment. Signals of Spring requires them to form their own questions then go out and get their own answers. This will prepare them for high school and the 'real world'."

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