UL Xplorlabs is a new educational platform that is designed for middle-school students to engage in problem solving. UL Xplorlabs is a motivating and interactive program that uses videos, instructional experiences, hands-on classroom activities and creative classroom challenges to engage students in scientific reasoning. Moreover, perhaps the best news for teachers is that it is a FREE, and offers a STEM-based learning experience with the Next Generation Science Standards for students.
The module that is explored here is the Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence, which gives students an opportunity to investigate a fire. Hence, students need to figure out the origin and cause of the fire. Integrated into the module is an overview with background information and the students can progress through a series of steps that come with complimentary videos:
Step 1- Inside the Fire Lab
Step 2- Investigators Academy
Step 3- Live Burns
Step 4 – Guided Investigation
Step 5 –Investigate the Mystery
Step 6 – Accept the Challenge
Once all of the video steps are completed, students can “Submit your Summary.” By using the evidence gathered from the solo investigation, students can tell the story of what they think happened in the kitchen burn. Below, you will see that you can earn a certificate that can be emailed to the teacher who assigned this lesson. Included with the completion certificate is a final video that explains how the actual fire started.
The “Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence” activity by XPLORLabs is a well-designed STEM-based activity that is designed for middle-level students. It is flexible and can be completed in 2-4 class periods. As you can see from the well-designed videos, the materials for the module is well-sequenced and meets the following Next Generation Science Standards:
MS-PS1: Matter and its Interactions. The DCI’s address in this module include:
• Structures and properties of matter
• Chemical reactions
• Denitions of energyMS-PS3: Energy.
The DCI’s addressed in this module include:
• Denitions of energy
• Conservation of energy and energy transfer
• Relationship between energy and forces
In addition, there is a “Teacher Guide,” that can be found here:
One of the nice things included in the “Teacher Guide” is a “Rubric” that will be useful to evaluate the student learning outcomes. Overall, I really enjoyed using this activity and recommend it for teachers who have the classroom technology to complete this activity, e.g., internet access, computer stations, etc. Ideally, using a projector to show the videos to an entire class and having the students break into investigative groups would be a nice way to do this activity. However, one of the advantages of this activity is that is can be done at home or in the classroom. Undoubtedly, students tend to find Forensics to be interesting an interesting way to do scientific inquiry. Ultimately, given that this Learning Module is free for teachers, there is no reason not to give it a try. My recommendation is to find a way to integrate this into your middle school classroom.
To access the site, please take time to visit the following:
Edwin P. Christmann is a professor and chairman of the secondary education department and graduate coordinator of the mathematics and science teaching program at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.