Transportation Doesn't Fit in My Curriculum... Does It?
by Brianna Fisher
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To be honest, when I heard there was a push to bring transportation topics into various STEM classrooms, I had to check my chuckle and then ask, "Wait...are you serious? I thought only little boys liked that stuff?" As a former 7th and 8th grade science teacher for 10 years, I can tell you the only time transportation even remotely came up was during the laws of motion, when I discussed how to determine speed, and the effects on a passenger when you slam on your car brakes. Other transportation topics didn't seem to naturally fit anywhere.

Then I had an "A-Ha!" moment when challenged with the task of building the nation's largest transportation themed STEM clearinghouse: transportation encompasses far more than buses and roads. Transportation is the movement of people and things. When you get to thinking about it, that includes the engineering of planes, trains, automobiles and boats; the logistics of getting things from here to there; the analysis and testing of different materials to withstand human footsteps, the weight of a tractor trailer, and the taking off and landing of planes; the environmental impact of various types of fuel; and, the dreams of transporting people from New York City to Los Angeles in just a couple hours, to name a very few.

Because all of our state standards are just a little bit different, let's take a look at the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. If you're a third grade teacher, how about we consider NGSS 3-PS2-1: Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evident of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object. Third graders love to ride their bikes, and we're always trying to make the curriculum relevant, right? How about using a bicycle as a demonstration of how simple forces put the bike in motion? Maybe you're a 7th grade math teacher and you need a real-world application of computing unit rates with ratios of fractions, or scale drawings. To Pave or to Pour, That is the Question!, a unit located in our lesson plan bank, lets students step into a transportation career, that will help the Moberly Public School District replace the parking lot in front of their school. I know several of you teach students on the verge of adulthood, desperately trying to figure out what they want to major in when they go to college. Put them in the role of a Health, Safety and Environmental Manager in the Inflated Tire Safety lesson, by investigating the effect of tire pressure on gas mileage. Students not only get to play with their cars for homework, but they're also creating equations arising from linear and quadratic functions (CCSS A-CED 1), and creating and conducting a scientific experiment that taps into engineering and human impact on the environment (NGSS HS-ESS3-4).

As a teacher, I heard, "Ms. Fisher, when am I ever going to use this?" countless times. Learning about careers in transportation through teaching your curriculum with a transportation twist can help you answer those questions while providing relevance to students' lives. The topic of transportation can capture the minds of more than just little boys when we introduce the real world applications to our standards based curriculum.
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This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation under Cooperative Agreement No. DTFH6114H00004. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Knox County Schools is an equal opportunity educational institution/equal opportunity employer, which prevents discrimination against any individual on the basis of physical or mental disability by providing equal access to its educational programs and activities.
The GAMTTEP Clearinghouse is funded by the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and administered by Knox County Schools in Knoxville, Tennessee, under Cooperative Agreement DTFH61-14-G-004, with cooperation from the University of Tennessee's Center for Transportation Research, University of Tennessee's Institute of Agriculture, and North Carolina A&T State University's Transportation Institute.