A Year in Pictures: Teacher Joanna’s Kindergarten Class in Taipei

Upon finishing up her tenure at Tsai Hsing School in Taipei, Taiwan, BGL’s Teacher Joanna created a photo essay that paints a pretty accurate picture of the teach abroad classroom experience. Her comment: ApparentlyI wore a lot of headbands this year.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, we’ve got 39k words from Joanna below. The details you will find describe our campus, curriculum, kids, coteachers, celebrations and stories.  We hope you enjoy. Thanks, Joanna!

If you’re interested in teaching abroad, check out our hiring page!


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Investigating themselves: Students are data detectives in crowd-sourced Big Dayta Project

Over 800 participants worldwide and growing every day

Big Dayta is an international collaboration of students sharing what they do every hour for one typical weekday. That data is collected into a single spreadsheet that classrooms can then analyze. Over 800 students worldwide have shared their data to date.

What does a student do with 24 hours on a typical day? Do they sleep for 8 hours and go to school for 6 hours? How does this compare to their best friend, their entire class, or even more than 800 students around the world? With Big Dayta, students are able to make these comparisons and analyze data whether they are in first grade or about to graduate from high school. Developmentally appropriate (and Common Core aligned) ideas are provided for grades 1-12.

Students can be guided by whatever they find most interesting to investigate. Guiding research questions may include:

  • How much homework do kids in my grade do?
  • How does amount of homework differ between countries?
  • Does the amount students sleep change as they get older?
  • Where do kids spend the most time with their families?
  • What are most kids in my grade doing at 4pm? Is this different from kids in other grades?
  • And much, much more, based on whatever the kids want to find out!

All suggestions provided in the Idea Guide are Common Core aligned, so teachers can know that they are giving students a chance to satisfy their curiosity about other kids, while meeting the standards. “Humans are naturally curious about each other,” according to educational consultant Stephanie Ramsey, Ph.D., “So they do these calculations to get at the information, without thinking of it as a math problem. Math, reading, and writing all become tools to solve real-life questions.”

While the basic idea is simple, students keep track of what the do every hour on a typical weekday, the opportunities for application are enormous. Students can practice academic skills (analyzing data, stating claims and evidence, adding, subtracting, and more), and they can also connect with each other online to share their findings and debate what conclusions we can draw. The Big Dayta Facebook page gives students the chance to connect over their shared analysis.

The idea for Big Dayta came from inquisitive students. According to Seth Fleischauer, president of Banyan Global Learning, “Big Dayta started out of a fifth grade classroom in Taipei, Taiwan. Our students there were collaborating with another class in America and they wanted to know more about them. As a group, they came up with the idea with this survey. That was four years ago, and we’ve been slowly building it ever since. This year, BGL teachers pooled their resources and time to in an effort see if we could make a larger impact.”

Teachers can access a number of resources to support them in using Big Dayta in the classroom:

  • A slideshow introducing Big Dayta to their students (ElementaryJunior High/High School are currently available and one with a heavier-statistics component for just high school coming later this summer) and a slideshow with screenshots of how to work with the data using Google Sheets for iPad.
  • Idea guide for choosing activities
  • A longer explanation of each idea suggestion along with which Common Core standards that idea is aligned with (click here for ELA ideas and here for Math ideas)
  • Big Dayta Facebook page so students and teachers can connect with each other to discuss and debate their findings.

Classrooms can use Big Dayta for one-off lessons as the school year winds down, or for longer units where students can investigate and report on the data across multiple subjects including math, writing, social studies, and more. However teachers choose to use it, Big Dayta is a chance for students to practice academic skills, critical thinking, and learn more about themselves and each other as they do it.


Junior High Distance Learning Students Use the Latest Technology to Express Their Original Ideas

The students in Tsai Hsing’s distance learning think that learning with the iPads is the best. Most everyone in modern society loves using smartphones and tablets, but students in our DL class take utilization of that technology to the next level. By working independently and applying the amazing breadth of information available to them online, DL students show that iPads are about much more than just fun and games when used in the classroom.

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The iPad is truly a multifunctional device. It’s a notebook, a library, a movie theater, a music studio – an all-around creation station. Swipe, tap, hold and drag – students know all the moves to efficiently make the most of their iPads. In just a few short weeks of distance learning class, even beginners soon are on the path to becoming tech experts.

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The assignments that students complete in distance learning class showcase their ability to use English to combine subject areas with technology. The results are as impressive as the students who created them.

For years, students in DL have used tech tools such as Pages, Keynote, Zoom, KidBlog, Class Dojo, Newsela, Edmodo, and Google products like Classroom, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. This year, students have expanded upon their tech-spertise to include the following tools as well.


Perhaps you’ve heard of ClassDojo, a classroom management tool that allows students to earn points for good behavior and has cute little monster avatars. Classcraft is similar, but it is a much deeper system of points and rewards that turns good behavior in class into an adventure. First, students create profiles complete with video-game style avatars and roles including mage, warrior and healer. Students are grouped into teams, and together the team must survive by answering questions correctly and behaving appropriately in class (because it’s so customizable, really, the team survives by doing whatever it is the teacher deems worthy of survival). Students earn experience points by completing assignments and are able to “level up” just like a video game. Of course, you can lose points, too, if you answer incorrectly or are caught misbehaving (or, again, doing anything the teacher has deemed worthy of losing points). When you lose health points, an interesting dynamic occurs whereby the healer on your team has the option of spending some of their points to keep you alive (which is also in the best interest of the team). If you lose all your health and you ‘die’, your entire team suffers and you must perform a task to come back to life. It’s classroom game-ification at its finest!

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Below you can see the avatar of Andy from Team White Chocolate (teams choose their own names). Patrick, Jessica, Michelle and Jonathan all work together with Andy. They even wrote a creative story together about how their characters met. Looks like Andy may soon need to ask the team healer, Patrick, for some help.

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Classcraft has features that go far beyond what is described above. For example, students can test their knowledge in Boss Battles. In these battles, students must answer questions correctly to defeat a boss villain. Learning grammar becomes a lot more fun when a giant scorpion demon gets killed when you correctly identify a comma splice.

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One of the most popular elements of Classcraft are the quests. The DL teachers program a sequence of tasks that need to be completed in order to unlock the next stop along a prescribed path. Shortcuts are available only to the brave. Below is an example of the quest map. And, these tasks can even take place in some of the following apps.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy – the online library of instructional videos – has become one of the most popular edtech tools in the world. It was started when an engineer (named Sal Khan) noticed that there weren’t any good instructional videos for teaching math to his young niece. It has grown into a worldwide powerhouse of data-driven instruction that include videos on science, reading, grammar, and even test prep. In 801, students are using Khan Academy in a unique way with the support Classcraft.

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As mentioned above, a special feature of Classcraft are the quests. These include several activities students must complete. The first quest for 801 is all about grammar, specifically nouns.

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Padlet & the Global Read Aloud

By using Padlet – a virtual bulletin board – to display assignments, students are able to keep things organized, looking good and facing outward. For the assignment below, students began working with their partners for the Global Read Aloud for the first time this semester. The Global Read Aloud is an innovative international partnership with students from around the globe; millions of students read the same book at the same time and have asynchronous discussions online.  

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As the students embarked on reading the novel A Monster Calls, they first began with an activity called Mystery Padlet. In this activity, both groups in the collaboration offered clues and photos about their respective cities and countries on a shared Padlet “Wall.” They then used the detailed clues to make an educated guess as to where the other group is located. Classes 701 & 702 soon learned that they are partnered with 7th grade classes in Seattle, Washington, in the United States. Over the course of the next few months, the students will continue to connect with their Global Read Aloud partners, using apps, websites and their remarkable English skills to look deeper into the text and grow as language learners and global citizens.

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Flipgrid & Joyce Visits America

When it comes to learning English, one of the things students need the most help with is speaking. Flipgrid allows students to easily submit short videos on a site that allows for quick video replies as well. It’s like Facebook except with video instead of typing. Plus, teachers can listen very carefully to the videos and give feedback to all students. This is not possible in a traditional classroom and truly allows practice to make perfect.

After reading about Joyce, a young girl from Tsai Hsing who convinces her parents to let her visit Taiwan, students created a Flipgrid to explain a time they had an argument with their parents.

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Andy used Flipgrid to tell a story about a time that he broke his headphones. He wanted new ones, but his dad wanted him to use some old ones instead. Although he didn’t win the argu

ment with his dad, Andy did finally get some new headphones. Yay!



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A lot like the character in the story, Jessica wanted to convince her parents that she 


should go to America to learn English by herself. Her parents thought she was too small to go by herself. But she had good arguments for learning English outside of a classroom, and promised she would write down every day what she learned.


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Robie’s answer about being too young to go to a concert was so great, Teacher Travis turned it into a Spark. This is the feature of Flipgrid that allows students to create a video in response to someone else’s video. It ‘sparks’ the conversation. Way to go, Robie!




In order to introduce themselves and share details of their lives with their collaborative partners in the Global Read Aloud, Classes 701 & 702 created All About Me iMovies. These impressive short films included detailed descriptions of Taiwan’s culture, student daily life and the prestige of Tsai Hsing School. Students showcased their superior iMovie skills through the use of all of the fresh features of the new iOS 11 version of iMovie. All iMovies were then uploaded to Edmodo, an online educational website that reinforces and enhances digital classrooms and serves as the primary platform for communication between the collaborative partners.   

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Without using any paper, you can study and organize vocabulary using flashcards with Quizlet. So far this year, students in 801 have studied grammar, learning more about comma splices, run-ons and sentence fragments. Students also have studied vocabulary for the Joyce Visits America story. Below are the top five challenging words or phrases from the first chapter of the story.

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Clearly, the hard-working students in the distance learning program have their work cut out for them between learning English, learning about American culture, and learning all these new apps. Armed with iPads, students can use their brilliant minds to take learning to the next level.

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Twitter-Stalking EdTech Conferences: BGL’s Top 8 #notatISTE17 Takeaways

While we’d all love to make it to the nation’s biggest education technology conference, ISTE, sometimes the cost and location can make it a challenge. Close to 15,000 people gathered in San Antonio this year for #ISTE17, but there were many more who were not able to attend. Fortunately, with so many innovative educator minds chomping at the bit for the latest and greatest educational technology, over the years a solid virtual learning network has emerged around the conference. Between Twitter, Google Groups, and other collaborative tools, educators from around the country were able to participate from afar in #NotAtISTE17.

The #notatISTE17 hashtag allowed us to easily network with other edtech enthusiasts remotely attending the conference. BGL teachers were just a few of the nearly 200 educators who participated in the #badgechallenge, which was a great way to get to know our fellow virtual attendees. Here are two of our badges!

As the conference began, BGL employees logged on to Zoom and met via video to discuss new materials as we followed the hashtags, learned about the latest ideas and resources and met some like-minded cohorts.

Below are our top 8 #notatISTE17 take-aways:

  1. Creative Coding on BrainPop For our 5th graders who participate in the Hour of Code, the Creative Coding on BrainPop could be a great extension for some additional coding projects.
  2. Buncee We’re always looking for new, fun and engaging ways for students to share their ideas. Buncee serves as a good alternative to the typical deck of slides.
  3. Global Read Aloud – Working in authentic reading experiences for children is always on teachers’ minds. This six-week global initiative to share read alouds with classes can be a great way to work in some good stories while connecting with students around the world.
  4. PhET Interactive Simulations – These digital math/science simulations are great when you can’t get your hands on the real thing.
  5. Peardeck – Peardeck offers a new presentation tool with interactive questions. It has great potential for both teachers and students.
  6. Flocabulary – Who doesn’t like a hip hop with their vocabulary development? This tool seems like it could make learning new words lots of fun.
  7. Triventy – Assessment is so valuable, but can become stale for students. With Triventy you can create collaborative classroom quizzes and switch things up a bit.
  8. Flipgrid – We often don’t get to hear individual student voices in the classroom. Flipgrid video discussion community that allows students to submit video responses to questions.

Join the #notatISTE17 Google Group if you missed out on the live Twitter feed during the conference for some great resources and networking.

What’s your favorite conference to Twitter-stalk? Leave us a comment!

The Biodiversity Project: An International Student Collaboration

Students at Tsai Hsing have collaborated with students from all over the world on topics such as Confucianism in the modern world, surveys of the daily activities of students, student blogging, and good old fashioned pen pals. But, our science collaborations are extra authentic and precise since they mirror the way that scientists collaborate in the real world. Our Regional Plant Project was another successful example of this. By combining the power of technology with complex science experiments, Tsai Hsing students went on an educational journey in which they networked with students from two different continents, North America and Africa, to investigate how in-depth scientific concepts manifest in the natural world around them.

About the Schools

From the United States, Menlo School is located in Atherton, CA near San Francisco. About 800 students attend this school. Many students are involved in arts and athletics.

From Kenya, Nova Academics is located in Kikuyu which is near the country’s capital city, Nairobi. This is a high school with both a boys’ and a girls’ school in grades 9-12. Students at Nova participate in a rigorous curriculum that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship.

About the Project

Each school completed the same experiments – gathering information about local flora – and then students shared their results and compared them with the other schools. Classes were divided into small groups, each with access to the interactive educational platform, Edmodo. The first part of the collaboration was the creation of a virtual “get-to-know-you” video in which students introduced themselves, their schools and their culture to their global partners. After initial introductions, students began gathering and plotting data from their respective school campuses, followed by data analysis that addressed common questions and vocabulary. Ultimately, students shared and analyzed their findings with the other schools and created a culminating video.

Parts of the Project

  1. Introduction – an overview of the project
  2. Cultural Awareness – how to respectfully interact with people from cultures other than your own
  3. Science & Vocabulary – learn the vocabulary and important scientific information to complete the experiment
  4. Introduction Video – show the collaborating students what your campus looks like and tell them a little bit about yourself
  5. Campus Map – Create a map of the school campus including major water sources
  6. Scientific Process – learn how the steps of the experiment and data collection
  7. Collect Data – Access campus water source and complete readings! Take lots of pictures and collect information
  8. Analyze Data – look carefully at your data and compare it with your classmates’
  9. Share Data – post your data on Edmodo so that the collaborating students can see it
  10. Comparing & Conclusions – after reviewing the collaborating students’ data and comparing it to yours, what have you learned?
  11. Conclusion Video – create a video that summarizes what you learned and says goodbye to your collaborating partners


701 Biodiversity Project

In Distance Learning class, 701 investigated plants and ecosystems to determine the biodiversity of their ecosystem. According to a Menlo student, “Biodiversity is a term used to identify and describe the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems of a given region.” Each school started by dividing the campus into quadrants.

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Students went to their assigned quadrant and carefully documented each species of plant they could find. They took pictures so they later could research the plants more closely. Fortunately, at Tsai Hsing Teacher Jimmy has many plants all over campus labeled with QR codes, so students could easily identify most species from the Tsai Hsing Field Guide. Students had to use their excellent English skills to translate the information so they could share it with the partner schools in a slideshow.

The slideshows that students created included a picture of the plant that they took themselves with their iPad, the scientific name of the plant, and a few interesting facts. They also created a bird’s-eye-view drawing to show an overview of what their quadrant looks like. Students did such a great job, they started to sound like real scientists!

By Kevin 38 & Joyce:

By Bernice, Jonathan and Anna 22:

By Tiffany 06 & James 30:

By Jenny 04 & Willy:

Students then took a break from science for a bit to explore the beauty of nature through poetry.

By Joanna:

 By Joyce:

As they identified the species of plants, students also counted them so they could calculate the biodiversity index. The biodiversity index helps explain how diverse an ecosystem is. Generally, the more diversity, the healthier the ecosystem. The results showed that Taiwan has quite a diverse ecosystem!

Here’s what a few students had to say about the biodiversity on the Tsai Hsing campus:

By Jasper & Nini:

Our quadrant is mediocrely biodiverse. I think the plants there are old and seem to be similar species, so it can be vulnerable if a really strong typhoon comes. More bushes or trees can be planted by the walkway. There are enough plant groups, but more contrasting plants will surely benefit the area. It would be stronger and look better.

By Gina & Kevin 45:

Our ecosystem isn’t really biodiverse, our quadrant only has three species and one of it is grass. Grass can be easily killed by people when we step on it. And the Duranta repens it doesn’t seems like it can easily be killed because we don’t see any insects on it. The celosia cristata looks strong, too. When our school find out that the grass is dying, we can’t go on them otherwise they will get worse.

Field Trip Live

At the start of the project, Teacher Jackie took students on an interactive field trip to her own yard in Los Angeles. Students were able to see the succulents and cacti famous in Southern California. They also learned about the scientific process they would use to determine the biodiversity of their campus.

To wrap things up, Teacher Courtney took the 7th graders on another Field Trip Live to the great Pacific Northwest, with a visit to the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. Before the Field Trip Live, students researched some of the local plants that they would see at the garden. During the trip, students got into teams and played a fun game to identify the plants. It was amazing to see how much students had learned about plants and biodiversity through the Global Plant Project!


By Alice & Carol:

By Tiffany 03 & Irene:


Student Conclusions

To finish out the project, students wrote conclusions not only based on their analysis of the data from the experiment, but also to reflect on the cultural exchange.

Conclusions About Tsai Hsing, By Julian:

I learned a lot from my teacher, they taught me many things about ecosystems. They gave me many information about making video and ecosystem. I also learned a lot from my classmates. They told me many vocabulary that I didn’t know.

Conclusions About Nova, By Carol:

We got to work with students in Kenya. I’ve seen their videos and their school is huge and full of different plants that I’ve never seen before. I think Nova is a great school and their students are very friendly. I’ll keep in touch with them for sure.

Conclusions About Menlo, By Alice:

The school ” Menlo” in San Francisco work with us for this plant topic. The students there are very cool and nice.Actually, I think I can’t understand their video because my English is not very well before I saw their video. And after, I just do it! I can know what are they talking about! I know my English is growing up! Thanks very much.

Final Conclusions, By Lynn:

This project is so interesting and I want to do it again. I had do this project before when I in sixth grade. I was so happy then and I had said I want to have different pen pals in seventh grade, and I really have now! We even have a video to talk to them. I love it so much!

Overall, students gained some great experience through this international collaboration. While they learned some valuable lessons about science, what they learned about the culture of their partners through sheer exposure is a special opportunity that they will always remember. Many thanks to all of the hard working students all over the world who made this project possible!

BGL’s LingoLoop Partners with IRC to Give Free English Lessons to Refugees

BGL has been using technology to deliver quality English instruction to Asian classrooms since 2007. Last year we started a new consumer-facing venture – LingoLoop – that provides online English tutoring. Our small-group classes are based on the Socratic method; as students answer questions, the tutor transcribes their responses, fixes grammar and syntax, and introduces relevant vocabulary. This method captures very well the concept of learning by doing.

An unexpected byproduct of this method is an authentic and sometimes profound human connection. The questions we ask are fairly simple, but in today’s increasingly partitioned society, they are questions that do not often get asked. Who decides which music plays in the car while you’re driving? How is your life different now than it was five years ago? In your home country, what are the easiest jobs to get? What about the hardest? The cultural exchange is fascinating because learners in LingoLoop classes tend to be from different countries.

LingoLoop learners feel motivated to learn partially because of this human connection. The progress that they make helps them in all facets of their lives as they adjust to living in a new country. It is in this light that we are proud to announce our partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and the launch of our pilot program to offer free online English lessons to refugees. 17309122_1916219465275804_2239278047516257832_n.jpg

The IRC is the leading humanitarian organization dedicated to the cause of refugees. The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic well being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. In 2016, more than 26 million people benefited from IRC programs and those of its partner organizations.

In cooperation with the IRC’s Los Angeles office (IRC-LA), we are offering free online English classes to refugees who are in the process of resettling in Southern California. Refugees will have an opportunity to learn English from LingoLoop’s expert tutors and interact with other LingoLoop customers in our small-group classes.

As a company dedicated to empowering people through education, we are extremely proud to help realize the dreams of those greatest in need. Aspiring to become a double-bottom-line enterprise, we hope that this pilot will evolve into a core part of our business over the long term.






8th Grade Students Meet Rocket Scientist; Use Physics and Economics to Design Cars

The following was published in Tsai Hsing School’s bimonthly magazine as written by BGL:

Just a few years ago, self-driving cars seemed like science fiction. Now, Uber provides self-driving cars for public use in cities like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Google just announced their new fully-automated car company called Waymo. Given this recent progress, we can only imagine what cars of the future will be able to do.


That’s exactly what Tsai Hsing’s 8th Grade Bilingual Program students did in the Car Design Project for their Distance Learning class. Students explored physics concepts while letting their imaginations run free to design automobiles with innovative features. Concepts that the students explored include acceleration, friction, traction, and aerodynamics. For each element of the car – from materials to fuel sources to shape – students worked in groups to apply what they learned to a design they felt would compete for automobile sales in a free market.

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At the start of the project, students interviewed a real-life aerospace engineer, John Morelli. As a Structural Analysis Engineer, Mr. Morelli tests other engineers’ designs to determine if they will be successful or not. Specifically, his team determines if a design will blow up! He explained how large teams of people work for a long time to engineer things like airplanes, missiles and rockets. Students were surprised to learn that his current project would take up to five years to complete, even with over 200 people working together!

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Students then designed their cars. Every student had a role in the group: Leader, Engineer, Writer and Artist. These roles are similar to what is required to design a product in the real world. The Leader made sure everyone else did their jobs. The Engineer became an expert in science and led the application of physics concepts to the design. Meanwhile, the Writer took notes and wrote the team’s plan. Finally, the Artist drew the car according to the Engineer’s design and created a model that would entice consumers to buy the car. Everyone then worked together on create a “Sales Pitch,” which is a presentation that salesmen give when they are trying to sell a product.

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Teams accounted for motor & fuel, frame materials, body type, and tires when making their design. Each car was rated in four areas: speed, safety, green (environmental impact), and cost. Like in real life, teams needed to prioritize one of these factors over others. For example, if students wanted a very fast car, they had to either choose an inexpensive conventional motor with bad environmental impact or an expensive electric or hybrid motor like the ones used by Tesla. If they wanted a green car, they needed to choose between slow, inexpensive engines and fast, expensive ones. If they wanted a safe car, the needed to choose between inexpensive but slow and heavy materials or one that are expensive but fast and light. And, they needed to make these decisions using their knowledge of science.

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For example, when examining material types, students had to apply their knowledge of chemistry to understand the difference between aluminum, steel, titanium and carbon fiber. While carbon fiber looks cool and is super strong, it’s very expensive. But some teams built it into their designs to make their cars safer, thinking that consumers would pay extra for the safety and fuel efficiency.

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An example of student work:

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For example, when examining material types, students had to apply their knowledge of chemistry to understand the difference between aluminum, steel, titanium and carbon fiber. While carbon fiber looks cool and is super strong, it’s very expensive. But some teams built it into their designs to make their cars safer, thinking that consumers would pay extra for the safety and fuel efficiency.

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To decide on a body type for the car, students learned about aerodynamics. Students understood intuitively that a sports car cuts through the air to go fast while a SUV sacrifices speed and beauty for safety (whereas a crossover tries to accomplish both!).

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Finally, while choosing tires, students considered both the materials as well as the type of traction. Although it may be fun to have the soft rubber sports tires, they wear out so quickly that they’re very expensive and bad for the environment.

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Near the end of the Car Design Projects, students went on a Field Trip Live to the California Science Center where they were able to direct Teacher Seth to exhibits that illustrate the physics concepts they used in their project. Students were able to see a comparison of types of materials, watch aerodynamics in action, and move a small solar powered car with the power of a light bulb. They used this new information to change or confirm their car designs.

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After visiting an exhibit about alternative fuel types, Teacher Seth answers Jacky’s question, “Can cars add wind power in the future?”

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Will asks David, “What is the coolest car you’ve ever seen?” David wows the class when he tells us about the exotic Pagoni car, which he once saw on the streets of Los Angeles. They can cost up to $4 million USD!

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The final step of the Car Design Project was the “Sales Pitch.” Each group prepared a presentation and had two minutes to convince their classmates that their car is the best. Each group chose an unique designed that was customized for a particular audience. In the end, Izzie, Wendy, Lauren and Tamia worked together to create the best car design. Congratulations! And a job well done to all of the hard working students in 801.

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