Year 10 students at Oakgrove School, Milton Keynes, have just completed a successful environmental study with the help of the Personal Inquiry (PI) Project. As part of their geography coursework the students have undertaken a field study into the Urban Heat Island effect. This is the tendency of a metropolitan area to be warmer than its surroundings due to factors including shelter and heat loss from buildings and pollution levels.
The students used handheld GPS units and Sciencescope data sensors to measure air temperature, carbon monoxide, wind speed and infra red irradiance at locations across Milton Keynes and Northampton. Data was recorded onto ultra-mobile laptops and then analysed back in the classroom. Software was developed to support data collection, prompt students during the fieldtrip with useful questions and also help them interpret their data in the classroom.
The environmental study was carried out as part of the Personal Inquiry Project, helping school students learn the skills of modern science. The three year project, funded by the UK ESRC and EPSRC research councils, is developing a new approach of ‘scripted inquiry learning’, where students investigate a science topic with classmates by carrying out explorations between their classroom, homes and discovery centres, guided by a personal computer. The Open University is one of two university partners, along with Nottingham University. Other partners include local secondary schools, ScienceScope, a company that develops sensing and datalogging equipment, Nottingham Museums and Galleries, Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre and Gulliver’s Eco-Park, Milton Keynes.