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Sunday, May 04, 2014

TEAM Research: Endangered Species

As you may know from reading my blog, I decided to focus this year's endangered species project on the following learning areas:
  • guided research using multiple resources including a research website.
  • writing informational text
  • collaborative learning
  • presentation and speaking skills
  • service learning
We have already done a number of introductory activities, and now we're ready to immerse ourselves into the TEAM Research aspect of the project. What will that look like?

I decided to use a couple of past posts and research to guide the effort.  First we'll lay the foundation of the project with the the new MBAE study, The New Opportunity to Lead, A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years, in the following ways:

The study supports the development of students who can:
  • solve problems: 
    • The problem at hand is how to educate others about the efforts to save endangered animals. 
  • employ critical thinking and judgement skills: 
    • Student will have to think critically and make judgements about the best information, the meaning of the information, and presentation decisions. 
  • collaborate: 
    • Together students will have to pool their strengths and knowledge to collaborate well. 
  • think academically and deliberate: 
    • There will be a lot of academic discussion about the research, information, presentation, and service learning project.
  • create and think creatively: 
    • Students will have to employ creativity as they capture the interest of others in a short one-minute project commercial film, a 10 minute presentation, and a service learning display, project, and sale. 
  • employ optimistic, can-do attitudes: 
    • This will be a challenging project for students, and they will only get it done if they use a positive, proactive attitude. Plus their audience will learn more and they'll raise more money if they present the material with truth and positivity
  • demonstrate mastery: 
    • Students will have to make the time to become experts of the information

The study also points to Michael Fullen’s 6 C’s:
  • character: 
    • We will build character towards using optimal collaborative skill, serving others by raising money for an important cause, and educating others. 
  • citizenship
    • The project promotes citizenry by showing students how they can use their research and study to make positive change in our world. 
  • communication
    • The key aspect of this project is effective communication through video, presentation, education, and community service 
  • critical thinking and problem solving
    • Students will have to critically think and problem solve around the information and task in order to choose optimal information, understand and apply the information, and complete all aspects of the the task carefully. 
  • collaboration and teamwork:  
    • This task is based on teamwork and collaboration.
  • creativity and imagination
    • Using creativity and imagination will be the catalyst for engaged learning and effective outreach to others. 
The report also notes the following shifts:
  • "For both teachers and students, the experience of the school day was no longer a treadmill."
    • This is not treadmill teaching, this is exciting collaborative research, design, and presentation.
  • ". . .students worked collaboratively on challenging problems that they had played a part in selecting. 
    • Students chose their animal reserve and will choose the information they present, the way they present the information, and their service learning project.
  • ". . .globally benchmarked standards in math and ELA were built into the students’ learning experience. ."
    • Multiple standards are included in this project including standards related to reading and writing informational text, speaking and listening, presenting with technology tools, and understanding and presenting statistics.
  • "Once home, students were able to keep learning, perhaps collaborating online on this week’s problem-solving exercise; and always be in touch with their virtual global network, which ensured each student had a friendship group that included at least three other students on two other continents."
    • Since the main project vehicle is Google, students are using a collaborative Google presentation document to organize and collect their information. I hope they can also use a collaborative film tool. We hope to reach out to the animal reserves on other continents to help us with this project, and perhaps through Google's Connected Classrooms we'll reach out to students in other places too if time permits.

In one section, survey results were shared that summarized the Employer's view:
  • “Standards based accountability has worked over the last 20 years. Now we need to focus on building student-centered education, with more technology to enable personalization and more experiences to consolidate learning and ‘make it relevant’ to kids.”
  • “We must figure out how to address the achievement gap for our urban students who are being failed by the public education system in large numbers.”
  • “The focus on testing this past decade has threatened the focus on creating lifelong learners and in some instances has dumbed down the curriculum. Differentiated instruction that challenges all students to stretch themselves academically is needed to compete with the rest of the world.”
  • “Public schools aren’t spending enough time teaching kids to problem-solve, think, and work with others collaboratively. They spend too much time having kids memorize facts and figures – and they are too focused on checking off the boxes they have delivered to the curriculum.”
The project meets the comments expressed by employers in the report.

I noted the report's emphasis on a systematic approach, and the acknowledgement that these shifts will require "major cultural change throughout the education system" as well as commitment to the task.

We will use a systematic approach to this project.


Further emphasis on ". . .capturing and sharing the most promising new practices, especially in relation to closing the achievement and opportunity gaps," and the promotion of new models of student-centered education with "demonstration models" at school and district levels provided information we can act on readily as we move forward in the days ahead.


This TEAM research will provide a model for future student work. 

Attention was given to the needs of gifted and talented students. It would be interesting to create a committee 
of students, parents, teachers, leaders, and community members to study this area of school life as it is an area of school that can profit from the view points and experiences of many with regard to program change and innovation, and in keeping with the report's support for a range of learning pathways, and a variety of assessments.

This project has endless extension and fine attention to detail which would challenge a thinker and learner at any level.

Project Outline
  1. Introduction to content and vocabulary (completed)
  2. Selection of animal reserves (completed)
  3. Creation of Teams (completed)
  4. Team Building: Team Presentation Space, Team Roles, Team Plans, Team Research
  5. Guided Research and Writing
  6. Google Hangout with Experts (hopefully)
  7. Google Presentation Creation
  8. Presentation Script Writing: 9 minute collaborative presentation
  9. Costumes and Props
  10. One-Minute Video Introduction Creation
  11. Presentation Practice and Critique
  12. Service Learning Project Plans and Creation
  13. Museum Exhibit Creation
  14. School Meeting Presentations (June 2)
  15. Service Learning Project Sale Day (Week o June 2)
  16. Presentation to families, friends, classmates, and other grades (May 28)
Project Assessment
  • Were you a good collaborative team member? (We will define that explicitly)
  • Did you stay focused throughout the project?
  • Did you persevere as you read and researched using multiple resources?
  • The completed Google presentation includes all criteria listed on the template.
  • The information is written with attention to detail, craft, voice, and audience.
  • The Google presentation includes images that help "readers/viewers" understand the information well.
  • The one minute commercial creates interest, empathy, and investment in your topic?
  • The 10-minute presentation is entertaining, educational, efficient, and well rehearsed.
  • The Museum exhibit creates a virtual reality experience of your animal reserve and animal studies.
  • The service learning signage is entertaining, inviting, and educational.
  • The service learning project connects in some way to the project's overall mission which is to save endangered animals.
  • The self reflection and final assessment is honest noting areas of strength and areas for future learning.
  • The Google Hangout meeting with experts was well planned with thoughtful questions.