Exploring the Science of Retroreflectivity: Curriculum for Grades 4 through 6

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SAFE-D: Safety Through Disruption National University Transportation Center


According to the United States Department of Commerce, careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are growing faster than occupations in other areas. However, in-class academic concepts can seem abstract with little relevance to a student’s life. There is therefore a need for in-class curricula that links academic concepts with real-world STEM applications. Over the past 10 years, Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) researchers have developed many educational activities for elementary and middle school students (K–8) that provide an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and insight into what transportation engineering and other STEM careers have to offer. In 2011, a TTI researcher taught approximately 300 fifth graders about the scientific principles of reflection, refraction, and retroreflectivity through a brief history of sign sheeting, hands-on activities, and a laboratory exercise. While these activities successfully engaged the students, it is not possible for one researcher to visit the numerous K–12 classrooms in their area, much less on a state- or nation-wide level. Therefore, TTI researchers created a curriculum and associated materials that can be used by teachers and other professionals to connect real-world applications in transportation to academic concepts to enhance the STEM learning experience for students.



STEM, transportation, retroreflectivity, reflection, refraction, curriculum