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April 8, 2010

Learning Science, Saving Dogs' Lives

In science class, eighth-graders gain hands-on knowledge of why dogs and hot cars don’t go together

  • Eighth-graders at Brielle Elementary School in New Jersey learned about science while educating their community about the dangers of leaving dogs in cars. Click the arrows to see more of their posters. E. Giordano

  • Eighth-graders at Brielle Elementary School in New Jersey learned about science while educating their community about the dangers of leaving dogs in cars. E. Giordano

  • Eighth-graders at Brielle Elementary School in New Jersey learned about science while educating their community about the dangers of leaving dogs in cars. E. Giordano

Think science class is boring? Not if you’re in Mrs. Giordano’s classroom at Brielle Elementary School in New Jersey. Textbook readings about heat energy transfer could put even an imaginative student to sleep, but eighth-grade teacher Elaine Giordano asked her students to assess these science concepts and how they apply to real life situations.

"Students need to see that science knowledge is at work in their everyday lives," said Mrs. Giordano.

Recognizing that many young people have a dog as a family pet or know a furry friend, she asked them to imagine that they were hired by The Humane Society of the United States to head a campaign to educate dog owners on the risks of leaving their pets alone in a car for an extended period of time.

The students created posters to show how radiation, convection, and conduction relate to a dog who is left in a car. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85 degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within ten minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. This can happen even with a window partially open and the vehicle parked in shade. Since pets are not able to cool off the way people do, being trapped in a hot car can lead to heatstroke and even death.

Despite the serious subject matter, Mrs. Giordano urged her students to keep their messages positive. "I encouraged the kids to be uplifting about their message," she says. "Many of them used humor in their campaign poster and lighthearted messages to illustrate a tough topic."

Students were asked to include slogans or pictures in their posters that would positively engage others. The science lesson also became a lesson in advertising as students learned how to tune people in rather than turn them off with an admonishing tone or gruesome images.

The sixteen posters that made it to the finals were displayed in the hallway outside of their science classroom. Students from fourth to eighth grade were then asked to view the posters and vote for the top three.

One of the winning posters showed a Labrador in 3D popping out of a red hot car. The dog said, "Help, I'm a chocolate lab, I'll melt!"

"Many of us were unaware of the things dogs go through when left in cars. So now we learned a life lesson and a science lesson simultaneously." - Kevin N., student

The project really brought the subject to life for the students. Here's what some of them had to say:

"Our project made us actually care about what we learned. We didn't just throw things together since this was a real issue. We wanted people to actually get what we are saying and apply it to their lives, because we cared about this topic." - Nicole L.

"This project may save a dog's life and prevent an owner's broken heart." - Alalyiah K.

"Many of us were unaware of the things dogs go through when left in cars. So now we learned a life lesson and a science lesson simultaneously." - Kevin N.

"I love it when my work is used to change the world for the better." - Liam R.

The winning posters were sent to The HSUS’s New Jersey state director for possible display in an educational campaign this summer. The remaining finalists' posters will be displayed in the waiting room of a local veterinarian office, where students hope their message will reach even more people—and maybe even save a life.

 

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