Students tackle real-life situations with e-missions
Imagine a quiet little village in the midst of lush, subtropical vegetation on a small, Caribbean island. Late one afternoon, the 12,000 residents are jarred awake as steam explodes from the craggy hills above the village. Soon, incandescent rockfalls and ash clouds surge down the slopes toward the houses. To make matters worse, a hurricane is bearing down on the residents.What do you do? Could you have predicted the eruption, and what path is the hurricane going to take? How do you move the residents to safety?These are the scenarios that Rifle High School students will work through this year as part of a partnership with the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado Springs. The Challenger Learning Center of Colorado Springs is one of 52 centers in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. It is a space-based learning environment where people from all walks of life can learn about space travel. However, CLCCS realizes that it may be cost-prohibitive for schools to come to the center, so it developed a distance learning curriculum, or e-missions, that students can participate in from their schools.The e-missions are a complete curriculum that integrates science math, reading and writing skills. Many times the science skills, such as tracking hurricanes, are the same skills that the professionals use in their day-to-day jobs. The culminating event is a two-hour “mission” where students break into teams and are responsible for specific tasks during the mission. The teams are provided data, and they must make predictions and take action based on their calculations.This year, through a grant from the Daniels Fund, CLCCS will provide Rifle High School’s integrated science students with a total of 15 missions. The new integrated science classes at Rifle High School take a thematic approach to science. They are designed to incorporate physical science, biology and chemistry, and to expose students to all the areas that they will see on the Colorado Student Assessment Program test. Integrated science takes a real-world approach and shows how all of the sciences are used together in solving problems, said Rifle High School integrated science instructor Anthony Rossilli. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to take his students on an e-mission.”This is a new curriculum, and we were trying to develop ways to prepare our students, but make the information relevant. All you have to do is look at the news and see information about Mount St. Helens and the hurricanes in Florida to know that this material is relevant,” he said.Oralia Gil, the director of distance learning for CLCCS, said the curriculum encompasses so much more than science.”Really, they meet more of the language arts standards than anything,” she said. “Everything is dependent upon the students reading, understanding what they have read, then communicating what they have read to others.”The real magic to these lessons, she explained, is the interactivity and how engaged the students become.”You have to learn actively. It’s one thing to be told something, but it’s another to have to use it immediately,” she said.The integrated science classes will perform two e-missions this year. The Integrated I students will perform Operation Montserrat. It is based upon the actual data from the 1995 volcanic activity on the small Caribbean island. The Integrated II students will perform Space Station Alpha, which puts the crew of the orbiting space station crew in the midst of a coronal mass ejection. The entire e-mission takes from four to six weeks as the students learn the skills they need to complete the final task including identifying and predicting atmospheric weather in Operation Montserrat to proton movement and space weather in Space Station Alpha. All of the lessons meet state and national science standards.At the end of the coursework, Gil orchestrates a two-hour hands-on, real-life scenario where students work in teams and must communicate with one another and “mission control” to keep all of the participants out of harm’s way.How much time is there to evacuate residents? When will the hurricane make land fall and where? What is the radiation risk to astronauts stuck in Space Station Alpha? The data will come fast and furious at the students and they must make their calculations on the fly, and teamwork will be a valuable skill.”You have to trust your teammates. If you don’t help each other and communicate well with each other, you can’t be successful,” Gil said.Students will complete the e-missions early in the second semester. When the dates are finalized, the public is welcome to come and watch the kids in action.Theresa Hamilton is director of districtwide services for Garfield School District Re-2. She can be reached at 625-7621.***Dates to remember:November 4Highland third grade music program RHS football vs Battle Mountain 6 p.m.(this is a change in date and time)November 6 7 High School Honor Band at EagleNovember 10November 2nd Cup of Coffee at KSE and Terrific Kids AssemblyNovember 11 McDonald’s Teacher NighNovember 13RME 4th Grade MusicalNovember 16RME Literacy Night November 16RME Literacy Night
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