Paw Paw High School science program grows by leaps and bounds
From studying weather phenomena with the National Weather Service to taking soil samples and ozone readings, Paw Paw High School science students are engaged in hands-on scientific explorations.
High school science teacher Carol Coryea incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities into all of her classes to go along with the curriculum that Tech Ed teacher and STEM Club advisor Chris Poniris is doing with students.
Coryea teaches seventh and eighth grade science, ninth grade physical science, 10th grade biology, 11th grade earth science and 12th grade Advanced Placement (AP) environmental science. Coryea also facilitates an online chemistry class with the Florida Virtual School.
Any STEM-based project addresses real-world problems using engineering, math and measurements, she said. Coryea had students program NASA robots to go through a maze turning left or right and traveling so many centimeters each time. Teens had to measure and calculate distances precisely.
Her eighth graders looked at the human body and how robotics can replace human arms with artificial limbs. Teens first drew human hands, arms or feet, then made clay models of them and finally created robotic models with moving parts made of straws, beads and yarn.
Her seventh through ninth graders are involved in a new pilot eCybermission program where students work as teams on STEM projects of their choice for a virtual science fair competition. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Army and the National Science Teacher Association.
Students work on solving a real-world problem in their community. General topics they can select include alternative energy, environment, food, health and fitness, robotics and technology. Their project must include the scientific method, technology and some engineering and math, Coryea said.
Student projects include building robots to measure whether a planned community garden needed water, metering water use at school hand-washing stations, robotics to monitor water quality of local drinking water, scan tags for building security, a solar powered laptop and messenger robots for in-school use.
NASA satellite model
Coryea’s classes have also been chosen to create one of four identical sections of the scale model of the new NASA Magnetospheric Multistage Mission satellite, which will be launched in October, 2014.
According to NASA information, the solar-terrestrial satellite probe will study how the sun and Earth’s magnetic fields connect and disconnect, which governs space weather that affects telecommunications networks and satellites, electrical power grids and GPS navigation systems.
They are the only school in the United States that will be making the model, which is through the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
They were chosen because the high school has been working with the NASA Educational Research Center at Fairmont University, Coryea said. She attended teacher training there on how space weather can affect communications. Her students did space weather research last year on iPads provided by NASA.
Coryea and six of her students are invited to do a presentation in April on their research at the annual National Science Teachers Association conference in San Antonio, Texas. She and four students presented at the West Virginia Science Teachers Association meeting in November.
Through the Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) science grant, Coryea’s students have been studying global climate data and taking temperature and ozone readings and soil samples. Their work helps scientists assess patterns of climate fluctuations and reasons why things like super storms are occurring.
Coryea’s classes skyped and spoke by phone with Polar Trek space weather researcher Tim Spuck at the South Pole via satellite. Spuck spent a month at the South Pole conducting research.
Her students also worked with the Green Up, Green Down program and monitored leaves falling from the beginning of school to November. Their research goes into an international database that is assessing leaf drop trends worldwide and if changes pointing to global warming are indicated.
Students planted 48 trees on campus and the school now has a second rain garden, Coryea said. The Potomac Audubon Society continues its watershed program with fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth graders at the school.
Science fair, Girl Scouts
Paw Paw Schools had 59 science fair projects and 27 projects that went on to the county science fair, she said. Project topics included wind turbine research, volcanic eruptions, botany, temperature fingerprinting and centrifugal force, she noted.
The Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital offers the Science Discovery Club after-school once a month at Paw Paw Schools for girls third through fifth grade and also for girls in sixth through twelfth grades.
The Girl Scouts also work with kindergarten through second grade classes during school on hands-on science experiments and does a science program for boys four times a year, Coryea said.
Coryea invited “Rocket Boy” author and former NASA aerospace engineer Homer H. Hickam, Jr. to speak at the school.
This year’s science topic at Paw Paw High School is space and technology. Next year they may focus on biology and do more with botany the following year.
Coryea wants students to be excited about science and to have a good foundation in the sciences.