Cool the School Project: Launch Day

August 31, 2016 at 2:36 PM Leave a comment

We are launching this brand new project today. Nervous and excited.

Our classrooms have reached over 85 deg F last summer. This July was the hottest month globally ever recorded since 1880. We do not have central air conditioning here in the Bay Area because until recently, we didn’t really need it. So what can we do to passively cool our classrooms until we get a bond measure approved for the millions of dollars it will take to install AC? And even then, what can we do to reduce energy use?

The driving question is “What are Energy Efficient Ways to Cool our Classrooms?”

Students will be finding out what affects how fast ice cubes melt and making shoebox models of classrooms and seeing what affects the temperature. Then they will survey the temperatures of classrooms throughout the school. Along the way they will be learning about thermodynamics, experimental design and survey design, which will allow them to understand the principles of HVAC engineering (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). They will make evidence-based recommendations to the school staff, the district and at home for effective passive cooling strategies.

Here’s the lesson plan for the launch, modified after trying it with a couple of classes.

Students want (like all of us) to dive directly for a solution to the driving question. In the end, I just went with the crazy ideas which was way more fun than trying to corral students to think about what they would need to know to answer the DQ. And duh, because the metacognitive brainpower to do that is really considerable. Instead, I just pointed out the Next Generation Science Standards that they will need to be HVAC engineer consultants to the school district. Learning hard stuff on a need to know basis 🙂

Some of the crazy ideas: Fill the classroom with water and swim around. Have dry ice in the ceiling to rain the cold gas down. Make the floors into ice rinks. And my personal favorite: Have butlers with fans for each student.

But in amongst crazy ideas, some were actionable AND imaginative: Have plants in the classroom. Have a sod roof with grass. Plant trees outside windows. Tear up the blacktop and plant trees and grass. Open the windows at night. Misters around the school as cooling stations, hand held fans and mister/fans. Creativity has always been a problem and finally, this crazy idea approach seems to be breaking through the ennui where students feel at once invited to be creative then instantly shut down by teacher judgement ‘Oh, that will never work because…’ So thank you IDEO, this norm of ‘Suspend judgement’ and ‘Encourage crazy ideas’ is a breath of cool air!

You can see the energy in some of these pics, and the way we circulated to each table for them to share their ideas:

We are in the first week of the new block schedule and I’m being careful to move them around during class and switch up activities. And most of all, keep instructions brief, then circulate to check for understanding and coach.


Entry filed under: Creativity, Physics Topics, Project Based Learning, Thermodynamics. Tags: , , , .

PBL 101 with the Buck Institute, the Genuine Gold Standard in PBL “A” Grading Policy

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