Geoscience

By Christine Johnson



ABSTRACT:

Geoscience is a year long course that incorporated thematic, problem-solving science projects and labs based on living in a Seabase (an under water city). Through two schools' collaboration, students from an inner city school networked through computers with students from a suburban school to collaborate, analyze, and share results from their laboratory investigations collected within their own individual classrooms. Each team of students (two from one school and two students from the other school) after collecting and sharing their data were responsible for developing one lab report.

TYPE OF ACTIVITY:

The curriculum included hands-on activities, inquiry labs, authentic assessment, cooperative learning teams, problem-solving, on-line data bases retrieval, and the involvement of businesses and professional personnel from the community. Target audience: This was an elective integrated science course for students in grades nine through twelve. No previous science courses were require except the students did have to complete a project as part of the application procedure.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The sharing of resources, teachers' expertise, and ideas with students from a different school system was an invaluable learning experience for myself and my students. The teacher does not have to create a year long course to accomplish this. The classroom teacher may collaborate with another school for a short period of time. When students have to have one lab report between the two schools, share results, and analyze each others data, this is real scientific learning. The following is a summary of the course which can be adapted to fit the teacher's needs.

SUMMARY:

I wanted my students to be involved in real-life situations dealing with science, technology, and problem-solving. To accomplish this goal, I helped create and pilot a year-long elective course called Geoscience. Geoscience was a collaboration between two school systems which allowed students from diverse geographical and economic backgrounds to communicate their ideas and problem-solve. Lab teams from my class (inner city) networked through computers with lab teams from Copley High School (suburban) to collaborate, analyze, and share results from their laboratory investigations collected within their own individual classrooms. The Geoscience curriculum interrelated biology, chemistry, geology, physics and mathematics around a futuristic under-water city (Seabase). The idea of Geoscience and Seabase is the product of Carolyn Staudt, who was a science teacher at Copley High School.

The curriculum focused on seven areas essential for survival under the sea : Marine Mining, Human Physiology, Life Support Systems, Agricultural Engineering, Mariculture/Aquaculture, Communications, and Robotics. Four nine week modules were developed which were Conceptualizing a Cell, Ocean Organisms, Aquanauts, and Geoscience. Each student chose one speciality area to study for the year and learned about the other speciality areas through student presentations. All areas overlap one another to show how "real-life" situations depend on other areas of expertise.

Through opened-ended lab experiments and scientific investigations students gained knowledge and research skills. After completion of the investigations one lab report was turned in between the two schools lab teams. In the beginning, students were reluctant to share ideas and results. They were afraid the lab team at the other school would copy their work. They slowly developed a mutual understanding and trust. The students formulated ideas about each other before they had met and when they did finally did come together they came to appreciate and respect each other.

Each student was required to develop and conduct a research project of their choosing in their speciality area. Students set-up fresh water and salt water aquariums to study the relationships between fresh and salt water ecosystems, the correlations between the parameters found in the water analysis and investigate man's intervention in these ecosystems. In other aquariums students were studying the breeding patterns of sea horses, designing experiments to train a small octopus to open a baby food jar containing a live goldfish, and working with chemists from The University of Akron to analyze the octopus's ink. Students designed and built hydroponics equipment to conduct experiments and compared their results with students who conducted the same experiments with plants grown in soil.

Students were evaluated at a number of levels. Their research skills, projects, and lab reports were evaluated. The students personal logs were used to monitor the students' progress with regards to: communication between the schools, student-selected work schedules, and any problems which occurred. Furthermore, I used a checklist to record the progress of all students in cooperative teaming, organizational skills, effective use of time, laboratory techniques, understanding of science concepts, etc..

The evaluation of the students logs indicated that this type of thematic integrative learning is enjoyed by the students and makes science more meaningful. Geoscience enabled students with varying backgrounds and motivations to develop their own areas of research, identify the problems, and then through interaction with fellow classmates as well as students from another school, explore the options for the solutions. This course encouraged students to see the world beyond the walls of their school, to learn the benefits of group effort in fulfilling responsibilities, and to rely on others and themselves in order to achieve their goals.


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