I am really excited about my final projects this year. Normally, I would give a final exam in the form of a test at the end of the first semester, and save a project for the second semester final. Since “normal” cannot really be used to describe the Fall semester of 2020, I could not possibly give a final exam. Instead, I created projects.
My 8th grade classes recently began thinking about questions to investigate for their OLE inquiry investigations. This is much later in the year than I usually start this process, but I did not want to exclude it from the curriculum. Of course, we made changes – the students are working independently (no groups) and will conduct the investigations at home instead of in our OLE. Even with these necessary changes, I think this is a worthwhile learning experience. The trick is always making sure the students are prepared for their investigations before they start experimenting. This can be difficult because some want to just jump right in, set up their experiment, and . . . without the preparation, though, there is nothing fruitful after the “and”. Preparation is key.
I decided to make the final project for the 8th grade class a proposal for their inquiry investigations. A proposal explains what the student plans to investigate, how they plan to investigate it, and why it is important. In other words, a proposal demonstrates preparedness! I am probably more excited about this than necessary 🙂 When I thought about using a proposal for the investigations as a final project, it was a huge and wonderful light bulb moment. In the two weeks leading up to the final exam time, students are working on the different pieces of the proposal and then putting them together into one, cohesive product. During our exam time students will present their proposals to me and a few classmates on Zoom. I am hopeful this process will give me insight into their thinking about their projects, as well as prepare these students for their investigations which will begin next semester. Fingers crossed.
Biology classes have their own projects. Again, I am pretty excited about this one. This semester, we began learning about biomes around the world. I included a small amount of learning about agriculture in this unit, too. We also took a short diversion into viruses. Next, we studied cells and then photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Thinking about the final project, I wanted to create something that would bring all of these concepts together. I think I did it!
Similar to 8th grade, the final project includes a proposal and presentation. For Biology, I gave them the following scenario: A young couple inherited a 200-acre piece of farmland. It neighbors other farms and has a small creek bordered by mature trees that cannot be altered. The remainder of the land (about 180 acres) is level and the new owners want to continue to use the land for growing food. Because they are new to farming, they have created a council of stakeholders to help them with all decisions, including which crops to grow on this land. The stakeholders on their council are a local farmer, the local food bank director, an environmentalist, a science professor and researcher, and the young couple. Each stakeholder has specific interests and concerns to consider about the proposed use of this land.
For the final project, students are creating proposals for the crop or crops they believe will be the best choice for this land. I provided them a list of crops to choose from (each of which is known to grow well in this area). In the proposals, students will explain the biome characteristics of our area and why it is so good for growing crops, describe the crop they propose for this land and why it is the best choice, identify any diseases associated with this crop and how the farmer can reduce the likelihood of the disease occurring or mitigate its effect, explain how the crop is a part of the carbon cycle (connection to photosynthesis and cellular respiration) and how other organisms use the crop (metabolism), and finally photograph an example of this crop and draw a close-up of a cell in this type of plant.
We are spending two weeks collecting information for this project and then preparing the proposal. On the day of the final exam, students will present their proposals to me and a small group of classmates on Zoom. The presentations, though, must convince me and the other stakeholders that their crop is the best one for this land. In order to convince us, the proposal and presentation needs to consider all of the stakeholders’ interests and concerns. I AM SO EXCITED!
I hope the beginning of 2021 treats all of you well! Enjoy the moments 🙂