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Churchville-Chili students solve authentic design and engineering problems
Students at Churchville-Chili’s Ninth Grade Academy (NGA) are taking a different path to learning algebra basics, thanks to the school’s commitment to Project Based Learning (PBL) programs. With PBL, students gain knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to engaging and complex challenges over an extended time.
In the NGA Regents algebra class this semester, they were given the authentic challenge of building a municipal playground. The first task they faced was to design a fountain that would launch water five to 15 feet high and no farther than 15 feet.
Churchville-Chili algebra teachers Tracy Boughter, Nancy McMahon and Rebecca Taylor, with the help of Instructional Coach Andrea Lynch and Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES Instructional Technology Specialist Megan Hugg, are using the playground challenge to address a variety of algebraic concepts. The playground framework allows students to see how math functions solve real problems, like determining water arcs for a fountain.
Visitors to these classrooms will find curious and engaged student teams working together in ways that simplify and clarify complex math. For this initial fountain design task, students used small marshmallows to simulate water, and constructed simple launchers, adjusting the angles to change the arc and distance of the curves. They videotaped their launches, graphed the results and wrote equations. Students at the NGA are learning algebra in a manner that encourages exploration and innovation.