My grade 9’s are doing ecology first this year, and like last year, I kept the number of teacher-led lessons down to a minimum. But this year, instead of everyone working with invasive species, they are allowed to choose their own project (or projects, the number is unimportant) as long as it address the effects of human activity on ecosystems (one or many), water, and soil, and it must include one original hands-on investigation.
Since the investigation part seemed to be the part that was throwing them, the other day I told them that by the end of the 80 minute period they had to submit a description of what, exactly, they intended to do as an investigation, where and when they would perform it, and what specifically, they would be looking for (qualitatively or quantitatively).
I then told them we had a set of microscopes, dishes, jars, pond water, random soil samples from around the school, and a few litres of simulated acid rain. And then I said “alright, GO!”
I was pleasantly surprised by the inquisitive chaos that ensued, and by the end of the class I had detailed descriptions of most of the investigations, as well as at least a dozen experiments actually under way.
It was a frenetic, chaotic, inquisitive class. As a science teacher, I couldn’t have been happier!