Middle School Science Using Robotics For Esl Students

Michael Robinson, M. Sami Fadali, Ann-Marie Vollstedt, Eric Wang
2004 Annual Conference Proceedings   unpublished
There is a need for more effective science teaching strategies for science teachers with large numbers of Limited English Language (LEP) students in grades seven and eight. The nature of science lends itself well to concrete activities that offer students the opportunity to, not only learn English vocabulary, but to gain a better grasp of concepts when associated with inquiry and hands-on learning. We present the results of a project * that used robotics to teach MS physics to LEP students in
more » ... gular classes, English as a second language (ESL) students and LEP students in a voluntary after-school program sponsored by Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA). The project was in collaboration with engineering, physics, education and the local school district to train middle school (MS) science teachers who teach high minority populations. The paper describes how robotics was used to (i) address the physics part of the grade eight state physical science content standards of Nevada, and (ii) indirectly address the national science education goals of promoting science literacy and inquiry thinking in all students. We also address the connection of robotics to physical science content and pedagogy, as well as engineering principles. We explain how this was used to motivate students by connecting science to society. Even though the results of this project are directed at predominantly LEP and ESL students of Hispanic origin, the paper addresses the issue of improving student achievement in multicultural societies. It focuses on the need for both different teaching strategies and different curricula for underserved (LEP and ESL) students in grade eight science to improve their science achievement. It discusses why underachieving students need curricula that apply and connect science to societal needs more than students from generally more affluent families. The content is significant in several ways. First, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and curriculum to make science more interesting to underserved students is discussed. Second, the possibility that better science teaching strategies may motivate more underserved students to pursue more challenging science courses is discussed. Last, the potential for increasing job opportunities and increasing the human pool for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in a technology driven society is discussed. II. Methodology Curriculum Materials and Units: The curriculum materials were taken from the Robolab CD 3 , a book 13 , and robot kits. The teachers took a one-week workshop in the summer of 2003. The robotics instructors were engineering graduate students from the University of Nevada. After one week of training that consisted of 30 hours of instruction, the teachers had built, programmed and tested their robots. They learned how to use several different sensors, a variety of gears and up to two motors to move, stop and turn the robots. A physics instructor was also present to discuss and demonstrate how to use the robots for the Forces and Motion unit in the grade eight standards. One science education person integrated science teaching pedagogy when time permitted. Class members also discussed and wrote several activities that could be used, with revisions, in the MS science classes.
doi:10.18260/1-2--13736 fatcat:nh3pqmzvm5cr5bbvlwqkix6lo4