Project Based Learning at TAGS
– Relocating Water –
– Oil Spill Experiment –
One of the benefits of PBL is the opportunity to engage students in authentic, real-life projects.
Climate Change and Hazelhead Park
Many of the TAGS students came together before the opening of the school for an Easter Club, during which they experienced a mini-project during a four-day study of climate change.
On the first day, as a project opener, the pupils were given a task that involved working in groups. After a story was read aloud describing that there had been an oil spill off the coast of Sparkly Clean Cove, each group was provided with a container of water, a mixture of oil and food colouring and various materials, liquids and tools. The objective was to re-create an oil-spill and then use the various absorbent materials to clear the spill. The pupils busily became engaged with trying out the different materials, even assembling absorbent rafts to clear large portions of the oil, and testing different materials to determine the most effective disperser of oil. The liquid dispersant (washing up liquid) was instructed to be used as a last resort as this contained chemicals that would further contaminate the water.
The project elicited much excitement, discussion and teamwork to formulate ideas and develop practical solutions.
The following two days introduced a range of research from animal habitats to information about climate change. Arguments for and against man-made climate change were put forward and much discussion ensued.
The maths lesson connected into the theme by relating to the calculation of carbon emissions. The task was to choose a far-away destination, then calculate the air miles and emissions. This theme developed into a discussion about offsetting carbon miles. True Project Based Learning! The children then took part in a formula to determine how many miles and hours a bike would have to be ridden to offset the materials and making of the bike.
On the final day, the pupils were given an overview of Hazelhead Park in Aberdeen. The park has big plans to be the first Climate Change conscious park in Scotland. There is a 50-page information booklet about the plans to introduce various measures to the park, including –
- Changing management regimes to cut carbon emissions (grass to meadow, woodland or wetland),
- Linking woodland management with the production of biomass fuel for facilities within the area,
- Tree planting to capture carbon,
- Ensuring that mature woodland and specimen trees continue to provide shade and shelter in future (for people and buildings),
- Improved habitat quality and biodiversity to allow wildlife to adapt to changing climates,
- Better management of water flowing through and out of the park (intercepting, diverting and retaining water within the park; naturalising water courses),
- Educating people about climate change.
This was very impressive, and we set off with our picnic lunch for a visit to Hazelhead Park to find out if we could see any of these measures in action.
Apart from a few newly planted trees, there was no evidence of any of the planned measures, nor any information boards telling the public about future plans.
Upon our return, the club members set to work on a group letter to GreenSpace Scotland.
The letter was respectfully enquiring about notification about the plans for the park, and suggesting that it might be a great idea if there were notice boards announcing the amazing plans the park would be undertaking.
This is a good example of how projects can move beyond the classroom. Pupils are then aware of how their learning can expand and can have impact on individuals and communities in the ‘real’ world, locally, nationally and even internationally.
Children and young people then become producers of work – sharing, publishing, exhibiting – rather than just consumers of information.