Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ten Square Yards: A Schoolyard Ecosystem

Our ten square yards is a wooded area that contains
a small brook, trees, plants, and wildlife.

  • How big is ten square yards? 
  • What could possibly grow in an ecosystem that size? 
  • If we divide the plot up evenly how much space should each student study and manage? 
  • Is it reasonable to divide the plot up evenly to understand this ecosystem better?  
  • How else might we divide up the tasks to study the land well?  
  • What questions should we ask? 
  • What should we look for? 
  • When should we visit? 
  • How might we mark the land?

Once students have shared their favorite places in nature, studied the vocabulary of ecosystems, and are introduced to ecosystems concepts, they'll begin their exploration of an area that's 10-square yards in size near our school playground.

Students will lead the exploration by answering the questions above, adding their own questions, and developing a study plan that takes us through a full year meeting state and system-wide standards, students' curiosity, needs, and interests, and even MCAS science test prep.

The local conservation director has agreed to supply GIS images and maps for the study. He's also agreed to come in and introduce the mapping and GIS process to students. I also hope to host a local naturalist and environmental expert who has come highly recommended by the conservation commission. Continued coordination with the SUASCO River Days grant will also feed the study.

As winter months approach, we'll add the mystery seed activity, and hopefully spring will find us planting in our new grade-level, grant-supported classroom area raised beds, a place to plant, nurture, and harvest our mystery seed results.

All the while we'll stay inspired by ongoing biography study of naturalists and other STEAM stars, write in our science notebooks and STEAM journals, and personalize the exploration in ways that we're sure to discover along the way.

Ecosystem Study
6/2015 Note:
Much of what was planned occurred this past year, but some projects did not happen. I plan to continue this effort in the year ahead, but I'm thinking of minimizing our ten square yards to one square yard. I'd like students to make a one-square yard frame to use for their study--this will help us study the ecosystem and learn about measurement too.