Fishbowl: Creating a Project Proposal


Actors: Three Participants

Catherine: You know I was thinking we need to do something with our environmental unit. I can't seem to get any excitement or enthusiasm from the students. It seems like old hat to them.

Owen: Why don't we add more hands-on? What could we have them do?

Catherine: Well, we could test the oxygen content of water. They could test the pH level or chlorine in the water.

Albert: Hey, I saw some stream monitoring projects on the Web last week.

Owen: What would they do in stream monitoring that our kids could do?

Albert: On the Web the kids were using nets to collect small river life as a way to determine the health of the river. I was thinking we might be able to use the DuPage River. We can walk there.

Catherine: Whom do you have to talk to to get permission to do this work? I wonder if we can just do it on our own. Do you think Jack (our principal) will let us do it?

Albert: Why don't I go check the site on the Web? Maybe there is more information to help us. If I have to, I can call the forest preserve. Be back in a minute. You guys keep going.

Owen: Good idea. We also need to get permission from parents, but that shouldn't be a problem. They like this stuff and I know the kids would really be excited.

Catherine: We definitely could do our water test here. It would make the environmental pollution unit more relevant. You know how we adopted part of the highway? I wonder if we could adopt a piece of the river?

Owen: You are going to adopt water? Why are you going to do that?

Catherine: We could make a whole project out of the ecology of that site. We could study the water quality, riverbed, and stream bank. We could study erosion and the plants that grow naturally along the banks.

Owen: Those plants might grow naturally, but they may not be native to the region. Maybe we could investigate that just like a prairie study.

Albert: Guys, go to this URL:

This project is just what we are looking for. This page is all about rivers and even gives the names of people to contact to get started. They provide directions and allow you to share your information with other schools and groups. You can upload the data you collect.

What if we adopt a site on the river?

Catherine: That is what we were talking about while you were finding the Web site. I think that is a great idea.

Owen: But we are looking at more than just monitoring the stream. We are also looking at the ecology. We need to find out about plants and animals found in that habitat.

Catherine: That is right. We could tie this part into our plants unit and study native plants, particularly ones that grow along the riverbanks.

Albert: What would be cool would be to actually collect seeds and grow plants that we could use to counteract erosion along the banks. That would give the kids an authentic task and ownership in the project.

Owen: This is a great project, but I don't see any connection with technology?

Catherine: Not only that, where is the student direction? Will they pick and choose where we are going to go in the river? They are sure to drown themselves if we do!

Albert: We already have the Web site for technology . . .

Albert: Well, there has to be some experts we could contact . . .

Albert: Local college professors, ecologists, forest rangers . . .

Albert: We will be collaborating with other groups of students, so e-mail will be used.

Catherine: No offense, but I don't see how looking at a Web site is collaboration.

Albert: When the students share their data and look for similar causes of pollution, they are collaborating on the same project.

Owen: Since all the kids are studying the same river at different sites, they are all dealing with similar problems and trying to improve the same watershed. It is like one huge group project that everyone is contributing to at the same time.

Albert: Not only that, but the communities along the river affect one another. The towns at the lower end of the river have to live with everyone's garbage as it flows down the river.

Catherine: You are right. Can we do something with the property owners along the river? Wouldn't that be collaboration?

Owen: Still, it's a good project, but where is the technology? That is the connection that I don't see.

Albert: Hey, when you do the water test, you have to use technology. When you post the data to the Web site, you're not going to send it snail mail. The students have to know how to use e-mail and Netscape.

Catherine: They might even make their own Web pages that we could post.

Albert: If we do find some experts to help us, it would be a lot easier to communicate using e-mail or a chat, if the district will let us.

Owen: I'm excited about this project. But, what are we going to expect students to know and be able to do as a result of this unit?

Albert: The students will know about water quality and the elements of a river environment. . . .

Albert: They will definitely know how to conduct stream monitoring tests. . . .

Albert: They will know about macroinvertebrates. . . .

Albert: They should end up knowing about pollution and the effects on the river environment.

Catherine: The unit will meet our technology goals. The kids will know how to use e-mail, access a Web site and post information to a Web site.

Owen: They will also be using technology to solve a problem. They will also be using the Web for research. Both of those tasks are tech goals that we have for our students.

Catherine: Won't students have to select specific tests and determine the plants that will be grown? That is the student direction to start with. As they collaborate with other classes, they will have to determine what they need to do and how to do it.

Albert: That is good, but I was thinking we were going to do this to actually find a way to make the water cleaner. After students study the water and monitor it, maybe they need to make a proposal to the city or community to make a difference. That is certainly student direction.

Catherine: It's also an authentic task.

Owen: Hope we don't start something we can't finish. We might get chased out of town by some business.

Albert: That won't be a problem. They will be in the junior high by that time.

Catherine: Let's look at the format we are supposed to use and see how much we have already figured out ...

Catherine: Okay, it's grade 5.

Owen: The subjects are science and math.

Catherine: We could even do something with social studies like the history of the river. But, we should file this idea away for future reference. We're getting carried away.

Owen: We brainstormed the learner outcomes a few minutes ago. All we need to do is go back in our chat log and copy and paste them.

Albert: The authentic task is asking the students to monitor the river, identify the causes of pollution, and make a presentation of their findings to the community.

Owen: Don't forget they are going to be growing plants and transplanting them to the riverbanks. They will also be collaborating with other classes and posting their data to the Web site.

Catherine: How are we going to hook the kids into needing to accomplish this task?

Owen: No problem. They will love going into the water and looking for the animals.

Albert: That is right, but that is not engaged learning. We need to come up with a reason for them to feel a need and desire to do this, rather than doing it just for fun. After the first time they go in the water, they won't be as interested if they don't have a "bigger" purpose to continue the task.

Catherine: Why don't we invite someone from the forest preserve or somebody from that Web site to come into the room and explain the pollution problems in the river. After the kids learn about the problem, he could invite them to participate in the project.

Albert: That is right. It makes it authentic for the kids. They will feel like they are doing something important and making a difference. They will have to commit to seeing the project through and completing the tests.

Catherine: We're done. We already talked about student direction and best use of technology. I'll write this up and e-mail it to our facilitator. We can meet again when we get our feedback and need to revise our work.