21st Century Science Classroom Example

 Stream Water to Tap Water

I helped a middle school science class do a water purification project that had many 21st Century Skills. On the second day of class in early September, the teacher showed the students a beaker of stream water and one of tap water. He told them their challenge was to purify the stream water to be just as pure as tap water. He told them that they could use whatever methods they wanted as long as they wrote each up according to the usual lab report model and he approved the method. He sat down. The students waited for him to tell them what to do but he did not.

They began thinking of how to purify the water. Each group wrote it up, got it approved, did the experiment, wrote up the results in their lab format, and posted it to a class network folder. They found out that their approaches either partially worked or did not work. For example, a group put the water through a sponge but found out that the sponge had soap in it. The groups did experiment after experiment over the day few days.

One day a student realized that all the groups in the classroom were trying to solve the same problem, were having some successes, and were having some problems. He asked the teacher if his group could look at the other groups’ experiment lab reports. The teacher said the group could and that was why they had a class folder. The student’s group began to read through the experiments of others, comparing what the other groups had done to what his group had done. They solved the purification issue within ten minutes after reading all the experiment reports. Other groups began to read and learn from others. Every group purified the water.

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