Local firefighters spark middle school STEM lessons
Want an idea for a hands-on middle school STEM lesson that’s guaranteed to fuel student engagement? Hand the kids lighters, and tell them to start fires.
Even better (and safer): Invite local firefighters to help out.
Middle schoolers in Georgia’s Cobb County School District worked on this CTE-oriented lab assignment this year while studying the dynamics of fire and examining careers in emergency response. (But don’t panic. The only thing the students ignited was a small household candle.)
“Engagement is through the roof,” says Sally Creel, the district’s STEM and innovation supervisor. “And it’s not a superficial lesson. You can’t get more real world than learning about preventing a fire at home.”
Middle school STEM excitement
The lighters and candles were tools in mock fire investigations that the middle school STEM classes conducted using UL Xplorlabs’ Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence.
Students had to gather evidence provided in the program—and in their lab—to learn how firefighters spot the differences between arson and accidents.
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And the firefighters served as more than expert supervisors. They also taught students about various career paths in the field, Creel says.
The Cobb County fire department paid the off-duty firefighters to teach the lessons alongside science teachers at 11 district schools.
“Fire service is about more than holding a hose and aiming it at a structure that’s on fire,” she says. “There’s a real science behind it.”
One sign of student engagement is that teachers have not reported disciplinary referrals when the firefighters participate in class.
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“On those days, the students forget they’re middle schoolers who are supposed to be too cool for school,” Creel says. “It’s so much fun to see them get lost in learning.”
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