Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Endangered Project (Day 3)

Time to explore.

As a starting point, I set up a basic resource page for the students on a Google Doc. It contains blogs of a couple of gardening enthusiasts, some seed companies, and a few non-profits.

Students are free to move to other resources, but I have found that they need a solid jumping off point. They have four days to dig into resources, choose a plant, and fill in their their worksheet from Day 2. They should come to class on Day 4 with something to work with. Day will be about teaching kids to dig deeper, and to search for more specific information online. Searching online is a skill that has to be taught and modeled.

For instance, I can assume with a reasonable degree of confidence that my 8th graders do not know about these search strategies:

  • SEARCH tomatoes searches the site Vanishing Feast for information on tomatoes
  • SEARCH 1800..1900 tomatoes searches the internet for tomatoes between 1800 and 1900
  • SEARCH heirloom*tomato will search for heirloom AND tomato with any word in between
  • SEARCH tomato -hybrid -recipe searches for the word tomato and removes any sites using the words hybrid or recipe

Some of the words I will be asking to apply to searches on Day 4 include: heirloom, endangered, provenance, history, open-pollinated, hybrid, non-hybrid, determinate, and indeterminate.

I am slowly building a classroom resource library for this project.
My students do not yet fully comprehend the relationship between heirloom and endangered. My hope is that their search allows them to make some connections on their own. For instance, a student approached me at the end of Day 3 and said she is noticing that several plants (tomatoes and potatoes) from Russia are dark purple, brown, or black. When I asked, do you think there is a connection? She replied, "I don't know, but I'm curious."

We are still just scratching the surface. But everything is set up to feed and ignite their curiosity. I want to get out of the way as much as I can and let the students take their research wherever it may take them. I'd be upset if this experience validated Mark Twain's observation, "Never let your schooling interfere with your education."

To that end, I want to add that there will be no test or quiz. No assessment. No score. As I mentioned in a previous post, the endgame here is to grow some of these heirloom/endangered plants here at school and allow students to take them home to plant in their gardens...or start a garden. A boy said to me, "I'm looking forward to this project because I told my parents last summer that I wanted to start a garden but never did."

The challenge for me will be keeping the conversation going, keeping the kids writing and sharing photographs of the progress of their plants in addition to the progress of their knowledge. Perhaps in a month or two we can write an essay about one facet of the experience and use that for an assessment, but for right now, it is time to explore.

And time for me to get out of the way.

Day 1       Day 2

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