Handbook of Engaged Learning Projects

Sight and Sound in Nature

Project Summary


Student Pages

Internet Links


Subject/Content Area: Physics/Biology

Target Audience: This project primarily targets grades 9-12. The project is best suited as an assessment of student understanding of the behavior of sound and light waves; as such, it would best be implemented in a physics or physical science classroom. In addition to the obvious physics content, there is the potential for a strong biology connection. Research on sight and sound in nature may inevitably lead a student into the need for background information about the anatomy/physiology, ecology, predator/prey relations, and animal behavior (as well as other information which is biological in nature). Student skills that are required for the completion of the project include:

Project Description and Goals: This project is one of a set of eight or nine projects offered to students during the second semester of their high school physics course. After being given opportunity to survey the nature of each project of the set, students select the project which they find most interesting. Each project implements the engaged learning model of instruction. Students are responsible for their own learning, assuming the role of researcher as the teacher assumes the role of adviser and facilitator. Students work in groups, collaborating with one another and with experts in the relevant field, to complete a challenging and meaningful task which is sustained over a lengthy period of time (a portion of the third quarter and the majority of the fourth quarter). The assessment of student work is ongoing and continuous. Assessment is performed through the use of several rubrics which evaluate students' ability to perform the real-world work of a scientific researcher. The project takes a generative learning approach in which students learn through exploring a question of genuine interest in an authentic and multidisciplinary (usually) context; students construct their own knowledge of their topics through literature and laboratory study and produce a scientific report, a presentation, and a Web page, all of which which documents and defends their findings.

Students will demonstrate the ability to:

Learner Outcomes: Alignment with National Standards:
This project demonstrates some elements of:

Alignment with Illinois State Goals
This project demonstrates some elements of: Assessment of Student Lab Groups: Scoring rubrics will be used to assess student lab groups; a separate rubric for the literature search, the project proposal/experimental design, the data collection and discussion of results, and the presentation are prepared and handed to student groups at the beginning of the project. Furthermore, students will be assessed based on a student information sheet which also includes observations of students which will include things like group work and interactions with experts and other schools. Three separate assessments will be made of the literature search and the project proposal. The first assessment will be a peer assessment; student lab groups will exchange literature searches and quickly assess them based on the presence or absence of obvious features and qualities. The second assessment (conducted a few days later) will involve the teacher carefully reading, scrutinizing, and evaluating a rough draft of the literature search; comments, suggestions, praise, and criticism are provided to the students along with advice on how to improve the literature search prior to the final submission. For the third and final assessment, the literature search will be submitted in final draft form and assessed as part of the completed laboratory report. The project proposal/experimental design will be assessed three times in likewise fashion.

Author: Tom Henderson, Glenbrook South High School, Glenview, IL.
Multimedia Handbook of Engaged Learning Projects sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab. Funded by the North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium based at the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).
Last Update: July 8, 1997