This page and other pages under it deal with the curricular aspects of the project. The objective of this effort is to develop a curriculum – lectures, laboratories and hands-on on projects – that enhance the motivation of the students to learn the subject. Typically, most textbooks approach a given subject in a “linear” fashion – exposing the fundamentals first and then building models on the top of these. However, research and our own experience has shown that students are more enthused about learning if they can see a “relevance” to the real world and their own careers. Our approach is the “concrete to abstract” approach, that established the relevance first and exposes the rigor.

The schematic below shows our approach to the overall curriculum development.

“Concrete to Abstract” Approach

The main approach is to provide a “concrete to abstract” style of thinking. For instance, in physics, several topics in mechanics are addressed in one experiment, say roller coasters. The class is divided into multiple teams – Integrated Project Teams (IPTs). Each IPT will design and build a roller coaster and conducts measurements on their design and do calculations related to various aspects of kinematics: speed of ascension, speed of fall along various tracks, speeds within loops, times associated with these, etc. Each IPT will write a comprehensive report on their chosen design that has all the technical details as well as “commercial” details such as comparisons of their roller coaster with existing roller coasters, how much their own would cost, how they would be marketing theirs, etc. The various processes inside the roller coaster will then be broken down into elementary concepts which will then be discussed in the traditional context of mechanics. The students build the model then make measurements and do calculations related to various aspects of kinematics. They scale the model up to real-life size and re-calculate several of the parameters and decide whether these are realistic or not (as far as real-life roller coasters are concerned). Alignments with Texas TEKS Standards and national standards such as NSTA are explicitly demonstrated.

A similar approach is used with the other science instruction.

How do you apply such a “concrete to abstract” approach to other subjects such as mathematics, English and Language Arts, and Social Sciences?

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English & Language Arts
  • Integrated Physics & Chemistry/ Physical Science
  • Physics
  • Social Sciences

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