NSF PBL Teacher Research


During the summer of 2017, four teachers participated in creating inquiry-based lesson plan that align with TN Ready Standards. Their work can be found below. 




Ashley Carr

Loftis Middle School

Energy Exploration: Comparing Electromagnets, Generators, and Electric Motors


Eighth grade students across the nation use energy for the vast majority of the activities they partake in on any given day; after all, this is the “Age of Technology.” Very few of those students, however, can break that energy down enough to explain what type of energy is being used, how it is converted, how they could make it stronger, or even what mechanisms are involved in the creation of that energy. This inquiry-based unit not only engages the students in
something they are already obsessed with—electronics—but also allows them to explore what makes their electronics function, even taking some broken appliances apart to discover what makes them work or not work. Students are experiencing what it is like to build an electromagnet, a generator, and a simple motor from scratch as well as discovering what actions must be taken to strengthen each energy source. In addition to learning how to build each
appliance, students are comparing what types of energy is being produced and converted, truly allowing them to explore the concept of energy by designing and building a product that they get to advertise to their peers. Students may extend learning by moving from expert groups into collaborative groups to attempt to design a situation in which all three energy sources will work together.


Jennifer L. Mitchell

Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences

10th/11th Algebra II - All About Quads PBL



As a secondary math teacher I have been told that students that are successful in Algebra II in high school are less likely to struggle in college. As our district moves toward getting those students that want a higher education college ready, there is a great push for students not only understanding particular skills, but to retain that knowledge and be able to apply and justify. I have chosen to do this PBL on Quadratics, because Quadratics are such a foundational standard in Algebra I and Algebra II. Students are first introduced to these types of functions in Algebra I, but since students are being introduced to Algebra I as earlier as eighth grade, some of these students do not have the mental capacity to fully understand the depth of Quadratic functions. As an Algebra I student, this unit of study usually has a time frame of eight weeks (yearlong courses) or four weeks (semester). As an Algebra II student, the duration is usually two to four weeks; because it is serving as a spring board to polynomial functions, logarithmic functions, along with many other functions.



Jessica S. Narwold

Normal Park Museum Magnet School

5th Science - Sustainable Energy PBL


The purpose of this project is to introduce students to the idea that the use of fossil fuels causes negative effects on the environment and that alternative forms of energy can be used instead. Students discover the amount of energy used in their school using a Kilowatt Power Monitor on different electronics. Through this process, students can gather a better understanding of mathematics and science utilized in the real world. They also create a prototype of a solar car, wind car, and hydroelectric car with K’NEX Education Renewable Energy kits. Using these prototypes students can create a list of pros and cons for different forms of alternative energy. As a result of this project, students create an advertisement demonstrating which form of alternative energy they believe is the best choice to eliminate the use of fossil fuels.



Sue Williamson

STEM School Chattanooga

9th Geometry - Going the Distance PBL 


Students often view math only in terms of computation and do not consider its use in contextual situations.  Available technology , including the use of handheld calculators and online resources, are not always used or are underused due to a lack of teacher training  and knowledge of the capabilities they provide.  Problem Based Learning units are a way to  encourage more student interest and interaction in the course standards, The integration of technology and PBL may offer students a way to develop a deeper contextual understanding of standards.  A PBL unit was designed requiring students to use the distance formula to calculate an optimized route of travel given a certain set of constraints. A lab was conducted to verify that using the distance formula would provide the same result as using direct measurement of a star figure. Despite several trials, the results did not demonstrate the same measurements. The lack of success of the lab would provide an opportunity for students to analyze possible problems and troubleshoot solutions as part of the overall PBL.

Jessica Hubbuch

The Howard School 

9th Biology - Aquaponics PBL

11th Physics - Circuitry PBL

10th/11th Physics - Waves PBL



This summer research centered around two secondary science courses, biology and physical world concepts. For biology, a problem based learning assignment was created challenging students to reimagine the design of an aquaponics garden. Incorporating four Tennessee State Science Standards, students will design and diagram a new system along with a comprehensive monitoring plan. In physical world concepts, a project based learning assignment was created tasking students with developing new skills such as soldering to design and construct a tiny building with a functioning circuit system. Additionally, students are expected to calculate voltage, resistance, and current.