Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Animal planet project update

First, I need to say that it is difficult using PBL in a content driven science class (especially as this is Academic and certain expectations for the college set must be met.) Sometimes it needs to just be about presenting content. Thinking of change in curriculum will help here.

Our combined class Animal Planet projects are really moving along. We have had a few bumps along the way:
  • Google Teacher Academy took me away at a crucial point in the project and because of this, some of the items we had planned did not run as smooth and were not placed as desired on the wiki. Not a big problem, just a management issue. Content is there, just not in the manner envisioned.
  • Tech glitches with server connections, down sites, and specific computer problems. This comes with the territory. We are used to it, but it slows work down.
  • Disruptions at school. changing schedules for assemblies, two hour delays, one snow day, and other interruptions.
The animal phyla/class imovies and related information was good. Some were great. Suggestions I have are having students put information into a specific checklist or worksheet to double check information. Students have a hard time knowing that the information that they find needs to go in to the imovie. Seems simple but this always happens with a few groups. Even if the checklist is given and physical work can be seen, how are you sure that students actually put it in?

One thought that I have is in the use of peer review. Have students be responsible for part of the checking of information and how it is being utilized in a project. Use some kind of form for consistency that is checked by students and teachers. Maybe use another format than a video. (I really wanted them to have more experience in the creation of an imovie but also know that it is not always the best choice as it takes so much time.) I need to use the discussion feature of the wiki more for student feedback.

The google maps/google earth layers were to have been collaborative between a variety of students. For some reason, not all emails showed up to the collaborators, there were glitches in the creation of placemarks...and because of this, there are more than one map for each phylum or class (they are on the same page as each of the videos.)

The endangered and exotic animals research was pretty great. It looks disorganized due to lack of communication (the days I was not here), but this will be reorganized in the future. I have some eager students looking for extra points.

Students had fun making the Create-an-Organism using Scratch and also writing a poem or story about the animal. We are waiting for the projects to be printed in color. they will be coded with an animal grouping name (pod, herd, etc.) and a letter. We will distribute them to students and they will be asked to assess how well the person did at displaying the niche and the characteristics of the critter without giving too much away. They will place the name of the phylum or class they believe it belongs in. A portion of the paper will go back to the artist who will determine if they are correct and be given a grade for their answer + reasoning for choice. At this point, the images of the organisms created will be uploaded to the appropriate animal grouping name and reflections/feedback will be given through the discussion tabs. We will do this after break.

Students worked on the following dissections: Clam (which featured an interesting follow-up of a day in the life of a clam, how clams were different in the past, etc.), Starfish, and Crayfish.

When they return, they will be comparing and contrasting those three organisms in an invertebrate reflection. Each team will have a specific focus (like locomotion, digestion, reproduction, etc.) They will create information to be placed on a wiki page and study guide questions posted to a class google doc. This will help review and relate structure to function of various invertebrates. They will also compare to the pig which we will be dissecting in January. Many topics branch off from these comparisons and I am working on a segueway into those topics.

Pig dissection will also be interesting (this is a work in progress - one of the reasons I love a wiki for its ability to let me change portions at any moment.) We are pursuing a 20% time approach to the pig. 80% of dissection time will be answering questions and finding parts. The other 20% will be in pursuit of information/actual dissection of something on the pig we have not covered or would not cover. Obviously, there will be a plan and posting learning to the others, but I think a little freedom here (with teacher approval) may be a good thing.

I have some great ideas for next year that really focuses on biodiversity of living things. There are items I need to do more of: small quizzes, more review of material, perhaps a few written or review worksheets to help with understanding.

What ways are you teaching broad ideas such as animal diversity to your students?

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