Teacher Story - 8th Grade Science

By Lacrecia Terrance, PBLWorks National Faculty & Independent Coach

Lacrecia Terrance

How can we keep students who are disengaged from school excited about learning? How can we reach students who struggle in and out of the classroom and who many would say are hard to teach? How can we effectively educate students from disadvantaged backgrounds?

Let me share a project that was completed with outstanding results, with my eighth grade science students.

The objective of the project was to discover why so many local citizens were getting sick with cancer. After collecting research on the entire city, we focused on which area had the highest percentages of people with cancer. We discovered that the most affected area was where the students lived. Local air quality tests showed that harmful chemicals were being released from the neighboring chemical plants.

At the end of the project, students presented proposals to local plant workers on actions the plants could do to help lower the risk of the citizens getting sick.

Why do I choose doing projects like this with my students? Because they are authentic, very engaging, and relevant to the students.

In my experience, I have learned that lower socio-economic students are often disengaged at school, because of many factors such as negative environmental impacts, family and social issues that many of them deal with on a daily basis, wide achievement gaps in their academic skills, having little engagement in lesson strategies, lack of intentional strategies to build self-confidence, and having difficulty adjusting to restrictive classroom environments that do not encourage communication.

I recognized the importance of addressing each of these critical components to connect with the students and motivate them to try, so engaging them through PBL was key to my success.