Monday, October 24, 2005

Frizzleville's Dilemma: A Jigsaw

You are members of the town council of Frizzleville, NY. Your town is growing fast, and your old coal-burning power plant can no longer supply enough electricity for all the residents of Frizzleville. Your task is to consider all the options for supplying electricity to Frizzleville, taking into account the following factors:
• Cost per unit of electricity
• Environmental impact
• How much electricity can be provided
• Other concerns of residents, such as safety, beauty of the area, etc.

Here’s a little background to help you make your decision:
Frizzleville is a small town located just outside of NYC, on the fast-flowing Hudson River. The weather is cloudy and windy approximately 60% of the year, and sunny with low winds the other 40% of the year. The town currently gets electricity from a coal-burning power plant built in 1950. This power plant can no longer provide enough electricity for the whole town. It could be closed down completely, or modified to include more modern anti-pollution controls, or kept open without modification. An oil field was also recently discovered off the coast of NY, and there are rumors of natural gas located in the area. Finally, Frizzleville is located in a densely-forested part of New York state.

Discuss the options with your fellow town-councillors. How are you going to provide electricity to the people of Frizzleville? You may choose just one source of electricity or combine more than one option, but keep in mind that combining options will likely be more expensive than going with one single option. First, educate the other town councillors about the resources that you studied yesterday. Then discuss the pros and cons of each option. After you have discussed the options, make a chart describing your plan and why it is the best plan. Then list some of the other options you considered, and why you rejected them.

“I agree with _____, because…” “Here in the text, it says…” “Can you explain that again, please?” “I disagree with ______, because…” “I agree with ______ but disagree with _______” “________, can you explain what you learned about….?”

*****

This is part 3 of a 5-part jigsaw activity I am doing with my seventh graders. It is my first experiment with the jigsaw idea - I've done plenty of groupwork and have experimented with students-teaching-students before, but never in quite this format.

Today, I assigned each group of 3 students a section of the chapter on energy resources, along with a worksheet to help them find the main idea of each paragraph of their reading. The idea is that some groups became experts on nuclear energy, others on fossil fuels, others on renewable resources, and others on inexhaustible resources. Tomorrow, each group has to write several multiple-choice quiz questions on what they read, along with one open-ended question. If they do a good job with those, I will create the quiz (day 5) from their questions. Day 3 is the activity above, except that now I am going to form new groups of 4 students, with one student from each of the expert groups. In theory, they can't complete the task above without all students contributing their expertise. Day 4 I will allow them to study in groups for a quiz. Day 5, they will take the quiz. They will get several grades for this short unit: their own quiz grade, the average quiz grade of their group, a grade on their "Frizzleville Dilemma" plan, and a grade on the quality of quiz questions submitted. Thus, both summative and formative assessments are built into the unit, along with both individual and group incentives.

I'll let you know how it goes.

*****

I led a professional development workshop today. I think it went pretty well.

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