After years of inspiring students with their demonstrations of street sign and pavement marking retroreflectivity, researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) have developed a no-cost curriculum that will soon be available to teachers across the country.
The curriculum project was made possible with funding from the Safety Through Disruption (Safe-D) University Transportation Center (UTC), a consortium that includes researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, San Diego State University and TTI. One key goal of the UTC is education and workforce development.
“We discovered that when kids learn about how signs and pavement markings retroreflect a vehicle’s headlights back to the driver, it helps them understand the scientific principles of reflection and refraction and they suddenly became very interested in how it all works,” Melisa Finley explains.
Finley, who has been teaching real-world retroreflectivity science to visiting students at TTI for several years, began developing a curriculum with Stephanie Hanover, a local schoolteacher, who loves getting her students to experience real-world applications of scientific principles. Hanover, a middle-school science teacher at Allen Academy in Bryan, Texas, is working with Finley on the finishing touches on the in-class curriculum.
“The retroreflectivity unit has been built from the ground up, all designed to get kids interested in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math,” Hanover says. “As part of the curriculum, the kids will have the chance to build their own signs, so it’s a real hands-on lesson.”
As part of the project, Finley and Hanover are producing lesson plans, a slide presentation, student worksheets, and a train-the-trainer video that explains how to teach the material. While a list of materials will be available for each lesson, TTI plans to provide kits that contain most of the supplies needed to complete all of the activities in their entirety, including items that may not be readily available in the classroom.
“We are developing the curriculum so teachers will be able to download the materials online. The curriculum and associated materials will be free,” Finley says. “Teachers will have the option of using all or parts of the curriculum for their classes, science nights, career fairs, or Engineering Days activities.”
The curriculum and kits will be available for use beginning with the 2018–2019 school year. For more information, email STEM@tti.tamu.edu.