Teachers are always striving to make education more meaningful for their students. Giving students real situations in which they have ownership is key to reaching this goal. Our group is planning to develop a water quality unit that we believe will excite students by giving them experiences in real life problem solving. Ultimately, we would like to develop a cross curricular unit to be implemented in the middle school team teaching format. This summer, however, we will focus on the science and technology ends of this project.
The basic premise of this activity is that students will visit local streams to collect water samples for chemical analysis, collect site information such as water temperature and flow rate, collect GPS referenced longitude and latitude readings, and collect benthic macroorganisms for quality monitoring. This will be done at various locations along the stream and at various times in the year. Results will be compiled and posted on the web as well as on maps created in GIS based software. To accomplish this project we will break it into the following components: background activities, field/lab activities, and analysis and presentation activities. In the background activities we will develop lessons to teach students about mapping, the water cycle, water analysis techniques, benthic macroorganisms, and computer tools. The computer tools will include using spreadsheets for recording information and generating graphs, writing basic HTML, using peripherals such digital cameras, flexcams, and CBL probes, and using MapIT! (a Java based mapping program) and GPS units to create maps.
The field and lab activities will be centered around the collection and analysis of the water and organisms collected. We will investigate which chemical tests the students will run but will definitely include pH, nitrate/nitrite, hardness, and alkalinity. The final lessons to be developed will be compiling the results into HTML documents, creating GIS referenced maps with our point data, and publishing the information on the web. We will also investigate activities and assignments that have the students draw conclusions of the results collected.
In order to achieve our goals, we will divide the project into tasks that will be accomplished by the following people: Pam Van Walleghen will develop training materials for the computer tools, Kevin Erlinger and Pam will develop the training materials and lessons using MapIT! and train Jan Hari and Sue Bogren on MapIT!, Jan, Sue and Kevin will develop the science background and field activities, and Jan and Sue will develop a unit matrix to design learning activities that meet a wide range of learner needs and abilities.
My part of the group project is to adapt general education lessons as necessary to make them appropriate to LD and E/BD students. The adaptations will be geared toward helping students use their learning styles and strengths. The curriculum content will be the same as that in the regular education lesson, but the presentation may differ. It may involve using audio/video in addition to or instead of text. It may require that some lessons be shortened to accommodate limited attention spans. In addition Jan Hari and I will organize the lessons on a Samara graph to provide a systematic way to present the variety of lessons we will produce. We want to be sure that we are presenting lessons that require students to gain knowledge, comprehension, the ability to apply and analyze, what they have learned, and the ability to problem solve and evaluate their work.
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