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Van Wert High School

PBL in Action


The ICP students recently embarked on a new project called "Cash Contest".  In this project, students have been charged with the task to learn how to manufacture chemicals of significant value in a laboratory setting.  Students will need fundamental knowledge on the five types of chemical reactions, how to balance equations to identify mole ratios, identify the exact masses of reactants and products through stoichiometry conversions, and concepts of economics such as supply and demand, working within a limited budget, and market value of a good.  The students will be given a $200 budget to determine what raw materials they will purchase in order to manufacture their desired target chemical(s) to sell in the free market.  Students must keep a weekly log of activities that move them towards the identification of their target chemical(s) and a detailed, itemized spreadsheet in google that tracks their exact spending to stay within their initial $200 budget which will meet the written communication portion of the project.  Bonus opportunities will be awarded based on the cost-to-profit margin of their targeted chemicals.  Multiple lab opportunities will guide the students through the manufacturing process for specific chemicals of their choosing.  The project will culminate in January.



The ICP (Intro to Chemistry and Physics) class recently completed a portion of their "Build a Lab" project.  In this subsection of the project titled "Name that Compound" the students were asked to build a game show over the major concepts of ionic and covalent bonding.  Relevant chemistry standards were the foundation of all the questions included in the game show.  Students were able to sync their computers together for each game show to allow the "contestants" to compete against one another.  This subsection is a part of a bigger project where students have a finite budget to build a laboratory in a school setting.  Groups were given a $4000 budget to purchase necessary equipment and chemicals to "build a lab" that would give high school students a great hands on experience in the discipline of chemistry.



VWHS students have the opportunity to take a course in the fall titled Elements of Theatrical Design where they study the various technical aspects of theatre including set, costume, lighting, sound, make-up design and the production process. Throughout the lighting unit, students learned about the different lighting instruments, functions of stage lighting, how to read a light plot, and what design options are available. In the cumulative lighting design project, students choose thirty seconds from a song, create their own lighting plot, and with the help of Matt Saunier, NPAC lighting designer, program their fixture choices along with color and special effects in a visualization program. Students presented their work by explaining their design choices and running their light show from the lighting console.



While studying the enlightenment period in history, sophomore World Literature students recently paired up to co-write historical fiction short stories. Pairs of students were given pairs of philosophers to research and get to know as “characters” for their narrative writing. Through their research of the philosophers and the time period, students then created a setting, plot, characters and dialogue that were transformed into short stories. They also created title pages to go with their work which were displayed as each pair read their stories to classmates.



This year's iCAP students recently launched a project titled “Insurance Assurance”. Local insurance agents Michelle Mooney and Blaine Dennis from Purmort Brothers shared the entry event to get the project started. Students began by learning how the auto insurance industry sets rates based on statistical analysis. 

Students spent the next month collecting and analyzing data in seven safe driving categories as established in an official letter from Purmort Brothers which served as the entry document. The students compared the data collected between teenage drivers and experienced drivers to attempt to persuade Purmort Brothers to re-evaluate the auto insurance rates set by the company in order to lower premiums on teenage drivers.  Students concentrated on motion and forces, including Newton’s Laws of Motion, in physical science, meeting Ohio’s Standards. The algebra focus was on sampling methods, statistical analysis, using measures of central tendency, establishing linear functions, and graphing equations which were used to prove why rates should be reassessed for the teen demographic in their analysis.  All these concepts were presented to the facilitators and an insurance agent following the steps of the scientific method at the conclusion of the project.



During the month of January,  Juniors worked on our short story and fictional unit called “Once Upon A Time”. During this project, students were assigned a Disney movie (within their groups) to watch and take note on the elements of plot. When finished, they were asked to research the original story, historical account, or myth and compare/contrast it with how Disney portrayed it. Their final product was to create a narrative, either original or a twist from their movie (individual), which was turned into a children’s story (group) and then presented to the second grade class. To prepare students on writing their story, throughout the month, we read numerous short stories and analyzed plot structure, characters, other literary devices and elements of plot.



 iCAP students were involved in a project called VWCSI.  On launch day, students walked into a “crime scene” in which chemicals were stolen from the iCAP chemical closet.  In the scene there were several chemicals left behind as some sort of accident happened while the perpetrators were planning their getaway.  Students were led by guest speaker and VWPD Detective Joe Motycka to start their initial examination of the crime scene.  Through the guidance of Detective Motycka, the students were allowed to brainstorm what next steps they could use to start reconstructing the crime.  From that day forward students focused on four main sections of the project dealing with Algebra and Physical Science to determine what chemicals were left behind, what those chemicals could be used for, what sort of street value they commanded, and possible identification of the culprit(s).  In the first section, students made the correlation from “footprints” left at the crime scene to project the possible height of the suspects addressing the Algebra standards of:

•  Linear Functions

•  Slope Intercept, Standard, and Point-Slope Forms of Functions

•  Graphing Linear Functions to Determine Slope that Relates Two Variables

Students collected class data over shoe size and height to establish a linear function that they used to determine the potential height of the suspect.  Students were then given a list of possible people in the building during the crime and they began to collect data from anyone on the suspect list to see if they met the function parameters established by the Algebra standards.  Students used that data to start trimming their suspect list down.

In the second section, students explored chemical bonding as well as physical and chemical properties to begin exploring what chemicals were actually left behind at the crime scene.  Students focused on key Physical Science Standards such as:

•  Electron Dot Diagrams

•  Ionic vs. Covalent Bonding

•  Lewis Dot Structures of Compounds

•  Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter

From the Science standards students analyzed a chemical inventory list of any chemicals that were left depleted after the crime had occurred.  From their original list of 20 chemicals, students began to eliminate chemicals that were not in question by cross referencing the chemicals left at the scene to the inventory list they were given.

In the third section, students again focused on trimming down the original suspect list even further through more Algebra standards.  Students were given an updated memo from the VWPD of information not previously available that not only revisited the function of shoe size to height, but also the stride length of a suspect to height as well.  Students then analyzed both functions using the Algebra standards of:

•  Linear Systems of Equations

•  Describing when Systems have one Solution, no Solution, or Infinite Solutions

Students were able to relate both functions from the VWPD memo to provide an updated list of suspects still in question for the crime.

Finally, in the last leg of the project, students took on the role of forensic scientists to begin developing a set of procedures using the steps of the scientific method to positively identify the chemicals from the crime scene.  Through workshops and great laboratory experiments, students were able to use two physical and chemical properties to identify both crime scene chemicals.  The Physical Science standards addressed were:

•  Physical vs. Chemical Changes
•  Describing Chemical Reactions
•  Balancing Chemical Equations
•  Development of Experimental Procedures Using the Steps of the Scientific Method

Once the chemicals were positively identified through methodology students created, they then determined a motive based on what the chemicals could be used for and what value they have on the street.  From this information, students interviewed anyone still on the suspect list and presented their findings of the possible culprit(s) in a formal presentation that related each section of the project together through an investigation log kept for the duration of the project.



All Juniors in Mrs. Wilhelm’s English class created Living Literature on a scene of their choice from any literature piece that was read in class throughout the year.  Students had to analyze the piece of literature in order to effectively create the backdrop and “life-like” 3D objects, and portray the character’s emotions and the mood of the scene correctly. The student’s themselves became the characters and held the position as the audience observed. They had to include a synopsis that gave the background to the scene and the characters and a summary of what was happening currently in the scene.