SOL Implementation of the LS “Technology to prevent Earthquakes, Safe Cities for all”

Introduction

School: 2nd Primary School of Nea Erythraia, Athens, Greece
Name: Georgia Lascaris
Class: 6th Grade (11 to 12 years old)
Implementation Dates: 1/2/2021-26/2/2021
Link to the Learning Scenario: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mzToyk3kdDXzxWPSKWvSim6zYCqZChU_/view

 Abstract:

This learning scenario was created during the “Stem is everywhere” MOOC and aimed to introduce integrated STEM teaching in our classrooms.
Greece ranks sixth in the most seismic countries in the world and earthquakes are in the everyday life of our students. During this learning scenario, students build their own seismograph by programming their BBC micro:bit (pocket-sized computer) to detect and react to earthquakes.
Using the micro:bit built-in accelerometer sensor, they record the magnitude of an earthquake. Each time an earthquake is detected, the micro:bit responds in various ways: lights up the led panel according to the intensity of the earthquake creates a plot graph as a graphical representation of the earthquake’s vibrations, triggers a sound and visual alarm.
The students acquire a basic understanding of earthquakes, of the notions of acceleration-velocity-gravity and how seismologists can track and interpret earthquakes. Through those activities, the students understand how technology (Tech4good) can be used to solve major challenges like natural disasters (SD Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities).
Students also realize the importance of designing inclusive solutions by taking into account people’s disabilities: visual or sound alarm for people with visual or hearing impairment (SD Goal 10: Reduced inequalities).

Implementation context:

This scenario has been implemented both in the classroom and in remote teaching during the ICT and Computer Science lessons. It involved 3 STEM subjects ( Computer Science programming- micro:bit in makecode.org, Physics-acceleration, acceleration units, Natural Science- discovering what is an earthquake and what causes them) and one no STEM subject ( Art – build with recycling materials different type of buildings on different grounds and test how they will behave in case of an earthquake).

The students worked in teams of 2 to 4 ( classroom or breakout rooms) using their micro:bit board (or using an online micro:bit simulator). The age of the students was 11-12 years old and they already had basic coding skills in programming micro:bit sensors and a basic understanding on earthquakes issues (curriculum: ICT and computer science, geography and physics). For this reason, part2 of the Learning Scenario (Investigating about Earthquakes, causes and impact) was merged with part1 of the scenario (Introduction to the problem (Earthquakes) and how technology could help to find a solution). The last part (Part 5: Drawing and making buildings to test their resistance to Earthquakes) couldn’t be implemented due to Covid19 schools’ closure.

Implementation of the learning scenario

part 1 and part 2: one didactic hour in plenary (instead of 2 didactic hours )

As our students already had a basic understanding of Earthquakes, Part 1 and Part 2 of the LS were merged into one didactic hour. We used the questions provided by LS to introduce the students to the main topic (how we can use technology and more especially the BBC micro:bit controller to detect and measure an earthquake), as well as the videos and padlet to refresh and assess their knowledge about earthquakes and their impact of them on the geology of an area and on human societies. 

part 3: 25 min in plenary (instead of 45min)

The students were introduced to the notions of velocity, acceleration and gravity using examples of their personal experiences and by doing simple experiments with toys (a car and a driver) as suggested by the LS. We used the MindMeister mindmap provided by the LS to discuss and clarify in plenary all those terms and conclude how the micro:bit sensor should be used.

part 4: 115 min, in teams

The LS provided the coding solutions and explanatory comments for each of the following activities, grouped in a Wakelet collection:

a.  detect an earthquake  & measure its magnitude
b.  trigger alarms for all people and especially for visually and hearing-impaired people
c.  plot a graph and simulate a seismograph
d. send remotely a message from the earthquake spot to alert the people in the city

Each of the above coding solutions was displayed in plenary (using a projector) in a semi-completed form, and students were asked to complete the missing parts. The students worked in teams of 2 to 4 using one  micro:bit board per team. The students first experimented by using the trial and error method with the accelerometer sensor and the input value “Acceleration (mg) Strength”, make the connection between earthquakes and acceleration and understand that the earth gravity is also recorded by the sensor (part a), programmed their micro:bit to trigger a visual and a sound alarm using the micro:bit led panel and computer headphones for visually and hearing-impaired people ( part b).  The implementation of the sound alarm was held during remote teaching.

creating a visual alarm with the led lights on the micro:bit panel
Figure 1: Experiment with accelerometer sensor

In the (c) part of this activity, the students were introduced to the command “serial write value” which reads the acceleration values on the micro:bit in real time, and creates a plot graph as a graphical representation of the earthquake’s vibrations. Students experimented on this new command and realized how seismologists.

MakeCode environment: using the PLOT command
Figure 2: Code and plot diagram at MakeCode environment
programming the micro:bit to record acceleration and plot a graph of the received values
Figure 3: Micro:bit controller reads acceleration values in real time

The last d) part was focused on designing inclusive solutions, to alert visually and hearing impaired people in case of earthquakes. Those last activities were held during remote teaching because of schools’ closure due to the Covid19 pandemic. The students used the micro:bit simulator to programmed a micro:bit (sender, for example, a device near the seismogenic zones) to send remotely a distress message using the radio sensor (visual and sound) to one other micro:bit (receiver, for example, a device at home).  

Figure 4: Remote alarm from one micro:bit to another
Figure 5: Using the MakeCode simulator to send remotly a distress radio alarm

Part 5: 20 min

Because of schools’ closure, only the theoretical part was implemented. Students were shown pictures of very high or old buildings. A discussion is triggered about the danger of a building being destroyed during an earthquake because of its altitude and according to its functional characteristics. In addition, students make the connection between the 11th SD Goal (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and how important it is to help cities all around the world to become more resilient to physical disasters like earthquakes and flows. https://sdgs.un.org/goals

Learning outcomes

The main learning outcome was the high interest and involvement of all the students, especially in the part of creating their seismograph and sending radio messages from one micro:bit to another. They were asking over and over to do this activity again. It is a fact that earthquakes in Greece are in our everyday life and this programming solution was a solution to a familiar student problem. This activity was complementary to the geology and physics lessons of their curriculum and it helps them understand about gravity-acceleration and velocity in an experiential way. This activity was the most reported activity in the codeweek testimonial videos  (https://www.facebook.com/codeEU/videos/477209093660326/). The coding part was very well supported by the fact that students had step by step semi-completed guides to help them achieve and understand the new commands. This activity can be implemented online but I strongly advise implementing the seismographic part in-classroom, when the schools will reopen. They also had a great time playing  the 2 quizzes provided by the LS:  Kahoot quiz on earthquakes and Quizizz quiz on micro: bit programming

Teaching outcomes

Those activities aimed to help students connect the classroom to the world around them and solve real-life problems, using technology and micro:bit. The teachers collaborated in many ways to adapt the LS to the needs of their classroom and the age of their students ( 11-14 years old). They also support each other providing their expertise to each other like solving some technical difficulties regarding the micro:bits (need to update firmware, use the google chrome) and some explanations about the notions of gravity-acceleration and velocity. They also collaborate with the class teachers to coordinate activities related to earthquakes (based on the national curriculum). 

Panorama of Activities

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