As last reported, I’m trying out Project-based Learning (PBL) again with students in my Science 10 Honours class.
I chose the honours because I don’t have to worry as much about them understanding the content they need to know in order to be successful on the Provincial exam. I am not doing them a disservice by delivering less content in an attempt to have them create their own.
The driving question is “How would you save your animal and why?” I modified my original question which was “How can I save the Stoney Creek ecosystem?” which I believe would be a really powerful and authentic project but requires more time than I can provide.
For this PBL project students have choice in which endangered animal they choose (from British Columbia) and how they collaborate (Googledocs, Evernote) and what platform they use to create their product (Padlet, WordPress, Blogger, Prezi etc). They are ecologists who are trying to convince a panel of wealthy philanthropists that their ecosystem and their animal is the most valuable and deserves the funding to save their ecosystem and animal.
In the process, students research the biogeography of the organisms ecosystem, consider abiotic factors that influence their animal, the adaptations and biotic interactions (create a food web and food chain), and human impact on the ecosystem and the organism. It’s like a long research project and it feels too prescriptive. Ultimately, they will present their findings to a panel of their peers and write a persuasive letter to the “selection panel” using evidence from their research.
Here’s my thought and sense…I’m still not doing it “right”. The time constraints this semester are even more extreme than I anticipated. What with course planning, Pro D days, pep rallies, assemblies and early dismissal, it is hard to get into a rhythm with the project. And I spread it out over several weeks with content lessons interspersed which makes it even harder to get entrenched in the process. And don’t even get me started on the pokey internet access which causes long delays and frustrations for all of us.
The good thing so far is that the process of the project is a source of learning, even for my honours students. They struggle with creating using 21st century skills. The struggle for them comes from not being told how to do it: they don’t seem to want to try stuff out and learn by doing (which is how I learned to use WordPress etc.). So I don’t have lots of marks in my grade book but tons of formative evidence of learning. And looking forward to questions from parents about what their marks are (just kidding.)
Next time, and there will be a next time, I will go back to my Stoney Creek idea. I will section off the park, with each group responsible for a section. They will map it using Google maps, assess the biodiversity (quadrats) and analyse the water quality, temperature change etc over a 3-4 month period. They will compare the factors between their portions of the park. Then they will identify the different interest groups for their section of the park and the impact those users have on the ecosystem. I would like to take them on a field trip to an urban stream near Burnaby Lake to see how they protect their ecosystem and promote biodiversity. And finally, they will create and present a proposal for conserving the ecosystem/park in a way that is sympathetic to as many users/stakeholders as possible. This feels like a huge undertaking but invaluable.
Perhaps I can email the Min of Ed and ask them to eliminate the Provincial Exam to reduce my stress (and the students:)