Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Science as a Moving Experience for All Learners: Students Use Pedometer Technology in Activities That Integrate Science and Mathematics

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Science as a Moving Experience for All Learners: Students Use Pedometer Technology in Activities That Integrate Science and Mathematics

Article excerpt


The excerpt above, "taking steps" from Michener's Texas (1985), portrays an everyday application of science and mathematics: something to which all learners can relate. Students with disabilities (SWDs), students at risk, and even honors students can have a hard time relating to traditional science instruction and often disengage; however, research has shown that when science teachers use inquiry- or activities-based approaches to teaching science, students' achievement is significantly higher, compared to those taught using a lecture/ reading format (Scruggs and Mastropieri 1994; Scruggs et al. 1993). SWDs benefit from learning science within an interactive learning environment because it reduces non-interactive strategies such as lectures, vocabulary instruction, and paper/pencil tests (Mastropieri and Scruggs 1994), which can be less conducive to learning for SWDs.

The National Science Education Standards call for teachers to "recognize and respond to student diversity and encourage all students to participate fully in science learning" (NRC 1996, p. 3). With the signing of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, the U.S. government declared that "every boy and girl will learn--regardless of race, family background, or disability status" (President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education 2002, p. 4). These sentiments were further reiterated with the passage of the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which called for SWDs to have greater access to the general curriculum. Cawley et al. (2002) contend that "science class is potentially one of the most promising classes in which to provide SWDs access to the general curriculum because it has the capability (a) to allow students to interact, share, and collaborate during their learning experiences; (b) for teachers and students to assist one another during instructional activities; and (c) to offer a variety of multimedia opportunities for learning and performance" (p. 426).

This article describes lessons used in general-education science and mathematics courses that included disabled (learning disabilities, emotional behavioral disorders, and mental impairments), at-risk, and honor students. Each of the activities focuses in some way on "taking steps," and accordingly, is related to the concepts of speed and velocity as well as Newton's third law: Each action (e.g., foot pushes on walking surface) has an equal and opposing reaction (surface pushes back) (Robertson 2002).

Activity: How Far Can You Go?

In this activity, based on "Moving Across America" from Pedometer Power (Pangrazi, Beighle, and Sidman 2003, pp. 60-62), students took an imaginary walk from the northeastern border of West Virginia toward a town on the southwestern border of the state (Figure 1). The pedometers that were used reported distances in nonmetric units, providing opportunities for students to practice English-metric unit conversions. Each student wore a pedometer to record the total number of steps taken during the entire school day, then logged and applied their collective daily step counts (Figure 2) toward traveling the distance between the two points. (Note: Obviously students did not actually walk the route shown on Figure 1.)

Students learned how to calibrate the distance feature of their pedometer by determining their stride length (e.g., approximately 0.73 m or 2.4 ft.) and programming the pedometer with that measure. The pedometer required students to round their stride length to the nearest 0.076 m (.25 ft.) (e.g., stride length entered would be 2.5 ft. for an actual stride of 2.4 ft.), giving them the opportunity to calculate and compare the distance that they traveled based on their actual stride length to the distance reported by the pedometer. Students had another opportunity for comparison: the distance they traveled based on their actual stride length to a distance calculated through the use of the commonly cited value for adults (2000 steps is approximately 1 mi. …

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