In my previous school, I spent a lot of time outside with my students. We took a weekly field study within our local environment and had a couple of extended trips as well. Simply by being outside a day a week brought students in tune with the happenings around them – students understood the meaning of a impermeable layer from winter days in the Pacific Northwest! For the last two years, I have taught a more traditional class and have spent less time outside – maybe the hordes of mosquitoes help. Check out the local variety and wonder if it’s better to stay indoors. As a result, I feel as if my students are not in sync with their environment.
I enjoy reading Science Teacher because of his consistent appeal for having kids first notice what’s around them. This was a primary focus of mine and I need to bring it back.
I see students every other day for 90 minutes and am thinking about dedicating the first 30 minutes of my Life Science (grades 6&7) class to observations and patterns of local systems. Project ideas I have for students involve the following:
Class Data – students will update tables and graphs to find patterns of Earth systems
- Sun: rise, set, hours of daylight
- Moon Phase
- Rainfall in the last 24 hours
- Dew Point
- % Humidity
Individual Projects – Semester 1
- Microscope Drawings of Plant and Animal using a Compound Microscope + a Dissecting Microscope
- Outdoor Plant observation – find a plant outside and track its change through the year through drawings or photographs, qualitative observations and quantitative observations. Create a documentary regarding how the plant changed over the course of the year.
- What section of a branch adds length? I’ve found interesting thoughts on this one and want students to find a way to collect data over a year to answer this question.
Individual Projects – Semester 2
- Continue with the observations of a plant and culminate with a gallery of each student’s design that shows the changes of their plant over the year.
- Plant adaptations – Go looking for similarities and differences. Leaves, seeds, leaf arrangements, flowers, etc.
- Life Cycle of Plants – we will spend time in the garden so students can take a plant from seed to flower
- Drawings of layers of the forest
- Different ecosystems around campus
My initial ideas are to have 4 out of 5 days in a 2-week cycle begin with this focused exploration. Students will have a certain number of tasks that need to be completed by the end of a quarter. Tasks may take them to the microscope corner or outside to observe. Some may need to research weather data or new concepts while others sketch. A secondary hope is that it provides me time to check in with students and catch those up who are struggling.
The fifth day? I hope to do a read aloud for 20 minutes. Are there any suggestions?