Patterns in Nature
TYPE OF ACTIVITY:
- Interdisciplinary Project
- Group/Cooperative Learning
- Prime Target is biology and geometry classes
- art supplies
- computer software
- reference books
- tape recorder
Students will research patterns in nature which illustrate biological and
mathematical concepts. They will design group projects which will model
these concepts in a cooperative setting with fourth graders.
This math/science project was centered around patterns in nature and
was funded by an Appalachian Educational Laboratory grant. The grant paid
for travel between the three schools, materials for research, and the
Science/Math showcase. It involved fifty sophomore students who were
taking biology and geometry with the same two teachers for the last two
periods of the school day. It also involved two fourth grade classes at
different elementary schools. High school students researched
math/science topics including fractals, Fibonaccis numbers, whale and
butterfly migration patterns, whale identification, flower patterns,
biorhythms, fingerprints, planetary alignment, fossils, human body
proportions, bee and wasp nests and spider webs. Working in cooperative
groups with fourth grade students, they designing models of these
concepts. The culminating event was a Science/Math showcase where the
students displayed and explained their models.
Project Time Live:
- High school students designed the application and mailed a copy to all fourth grade teachers.
- High school students chose two fourth grade classes, based
upon the application.
- High school students chose their groups and their research
topics. They sent a list of these topics to the fourth
- Fourth graders chose their groups and their research topics.
- First visit between high school students and fourth graders.
The purpose of this visit was to form collaborative groups
and decide on their project. They made a list of the
materials needed to complete the project.
- Second visit between students. The purpose of this visit was
to begin designing the project.
- Third visit between students. The purpose of this visit was
to complete the project and practice the presentations for
the Science/Math showcase.
- Science/Math Showcase. Students from the elementary
school visited the showcase in the morning. In the
afternoon, parents of the students, along with other
community members viewed the projects.
Examples of Projects:
- constructed models of the different kinds of caddisfly
cases, relating their structure and components to the
- displayed specimens such as pine cones and pineapples
which illustrate the Fibonaccis sequence. Detailed
descriptions and explanations were included.
- constructed spider webs using tree branches and string.
- collected data from a tape of crickets chirping at
different temperatures and graphed and displayed
the results. They also kept a 2-week log of evening temperatures
based on the frequency of the cricketUs chirping.
- plotted the migration routes of the monarch butterfly on a map
of North America and described the routes using vectors.
- analyzed the fingerprints of their classmates and graphed
the frequencies of different patterns such as loops and whirls.
- drew detailed drawings of monocots and dicots and also
displayed dissected and preserved specimens of both
- designed snowflakes, using black poster board and white
yarn, illustrating the self-similarity of fractals.
- constructed a 3-D honeycomb, illustrating the geometric
patterns found inside a bee hive.
- mapped the migration routes of whales, estimating miles
traveled and describing patterns.
- constructed a mobile, with each piece being a cut-out of
a different whale, illustrating the fluke pattern
that is used for identification.
- constructed paper mache scale models of the planets and then
hung them from the ceiling, again using scaling to illustrate
their distances from the sun and from each other.
- charted the biorhythms of their classmates using a
computer program. They displayed these charts on the
classroom wall, and students periodically checked them for
- constructed detailed drawings of bee dances. They
included detailed explanations of the dance patterns.
Method of Evaluation:
High School students were assessed in two ways. The first
assessment measured the research skills used to gather information on
their topic. The second assessment evaluated their ability to work
cooperatively with each other and with the fourth graders. Students were
assessed over specific content they had learned throughout the project;
and they were also asked to assess the cooperative venture between high
school and elementary students.
Elementary students gave an oral presentation of their project in
their classroom and also at the showcase. Each elementary teacher also
used the project to generate ideas for mathematics portfolio entries.
The elementary students also evaluated the cooperative venture between
high school and elementary students.
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