Handicap Ramps: Connecting Ideas and Experiences to PBL – apply what you learn

I don’t often have the question “When are we going to use this?” launched at me.  Sometimes I wonder why?  Why aren’t my learners asking this question?  I often ask myself “When are they ever going to use this really?” when teaching Algebra I.  How can I better show our learners that algebra is used for many real purposes, not just on a test?

On September 14, 2010, I had the privilege of attending TEDxAtl where I heard Logan Smalley talk about creating a movement with Movement Turned Movie.  Logan introduced us to Darius Weems and his story Darius Goes West.  In the spring, Darius joined our 8th graders for their retreat – an amazing experience for all.

On July 19, we will host approximately 170 teachers from nine different states for a summer learning experience.  We’ve done this summer camp for teachers for several years.  Each year there is a teacher or two who will struggle to navigate our campus.  There are stairs everywhere.  We do have elevators, but they are not always in the most convenient places.

In Synergy, we problem-find and attempt to problem-solve based on observations of our environment and community.  Logan’s advocacy for wheelchair accessible spaces combined with accommodating teacher-learners with mobility problems has caused me to want to learn more about our campus and the ease of access to our spaces.

Where are our ramps and elevators?  What are the requirements and specifications for these ramps?  Are the requirements based on the angle of elevation or the ratio of the length of the ramp to the height of the ramp?  Is the angle of elevation connected to the ratio of length to height?  Isn’t this rise over run?

What can be learned by investigating the ramps on our campus? Does our learning have to be restricted to our campus?

  • Algebra?  (I think there must be slope, geometry, and right triangle trig at a minimum.)
  • Science? (I think mechanical advantage might come in to play here.)
  • Writing workshop?  (Do we need more ramps? Are there areas where a ramp is needed? How can we advocate for others?)
  • History?  (When and why did the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) become law?)
Here is a photo we took today at the entrance to Pressley where most of us enter to go to the dining hall.  If you look closely, you will see a meter stick on the ground near AS’s feet.  
In the latest version of the TI-Nspire CX operating system you can analyze a digital photograph.  It is a great way to use ratios and proportions along with unit conversion.  Can you predict how tall AS is based on the measurements and the scale?  (I was less than an inch off.)  Does our ramp fall within the ADA’s specifications?  
Let’s make sure the variables and measurements are defined clearly.  m=3.83 cm is the measurement of the meter stick on the screen of the Nspire.  rl=23.3 cm and rh=1.91 cm are the screen measurements for the ramp length and the ramp height, respectively.  ah=4.64 cm corresponds to AS’s height on the screen. 
Can you think of ways to use your environment to teach?  We should not be restricting learning to the four walls of our classrooms.  Can we find ways to show our young learners how their learning connects to their community and beyond?

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