Some of the best projects are anchored in authentic issues and problems. Students tackle them with original research and a problem solving approach. I love how Calista, a multi-age teacher in Alberta, developed this type of project called The Buzz on Bees.
Title: The Buzz on Bees Grade Level(s): Grades 1-8 (Multi-age Classroom)
Type of Project: Design Challenge
Context: A local beekeeper has noticed a decline in bee numbers and problems with pollination. Find out how big this problem is and its causes and effects.
How can we increase the number of pollinators available to our plants?
Learning Outcomes: Small Flying & Crawling Creatures
-Describe the relationships of pollinators to other living things in their habitat, and to people.
-Identify ways in which animals are considered helpful or harmful to humans and to the environment.
-Describe the relationships of these animals to other living and nonliving things in their habitat, and to people.
Plant Growth & Change
-Identify and describe the general purpose of flowers.
-Describe life cycles of seed plants, and identify example methods used to ensure their germination, growth and reproduction describe the use of beehives to support pollination.
-Recognize that habitat preservation can help maintain animal populations and identify ways that student actions can assist habitat preservation.
-Data Collection & Graphing and other relevant learning outcomes to each grade level.
Writing for Purpose
-Experiment with sentence patterns, imagery and exaggeration to create mood and mental images.
-Demonstrate interest in repetition, rhyme and rhythm in shared language experiences, such as action songs and word play.
-Speak in a clear voice, with appropriate volume, to an audience.
Tangible Outcomes: • Products: A Proposed Change or Device that Could Attract More Bees.
• Performances: Poems or Songs about Bees. • Presentation: Informational Reading & Writing
Adult World Connections:
Interviews with beekeeper, gardener and/or field boss. Field work to count bees throughout process. Research data on bee numbers from research studies.
Calista reflects on the implementation of the project:
I really enjoyed the whole project from the time we came up with our idea. It had lots of real world connections for the kids. They have bees for their garden nearcy and have noticed an increase in garden produce since the introduction of the bees.
I knew that bee populations are in trouble world wide. As an entry event, we used the story of human pollinators in China to really catch their interest.
During the project, I put the students in pairs (one older and one younger) and they had no trouble settling on a topic to research. They researched everything from pollination and honey production to CCD and zombie flies! My local librarian was absolutely awesome and brought in more than 60 books on bees for me. This really alleviated one of my main concerns which was how do students, with no access to technology in our school, do research with our small library and no internet. Some times the research part was a little frustrating because the kids are not used to doing a lot of research and I felt like they wanted me to do it for them.
We also did bee drawings which developed amazingly over the course of 4 draft drawings . I invited my principal in to watch the practice presentations and evaluate the projects and he was very impressed with all the kid's work but was most amazed at the songs and poems the students wrote and performed.
In the end when they presented their final projects everyone was very impressed with their knowledge. We even had a guest bee keeper come in to visit.
The project took longer than I thought it would six weeks, rather then four, because at the end of the year there were constant interruptions. This also resulted in us not being able to complete the project we chose to answer our driving question. However, I still plan to do this step next spring. We are going to build a bumble bee box.
We also didn't get to use the citizen science web site this time. This is mostly because high bee season is exactly when we are out of school, but I still hope to pursue that option at a future date as well.
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