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Student Pages
Index of Projects

Grade Level
Best Use of Technology
Learner Description/Environment
Time Frame
Learner Outcomes
Structure of Learning
Project Evaluation
Alignment with Wisconsin State Standards



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Grade Level: 

Second and Seventh 

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This project challenges students to analyze our nature trail to determine what environmental problems exist including erosion and pollution.  When the nature trail was constructed, the impact that the trail would have on the surrounding fragile environment was not taken into account. Over the past 20 years, erosion and litter pollution have plagued the trail. Since much of the trail is located on a hillside that leads down to a fragile swamp/marsh land, the erosion is now a major concern.

The students will make observations and collect data over the school year. In small groups (teams of 2nd and 7th grade students), they will create possible solutions to these problems and submit them to middle school classes for any needed improvements. Together they will implement the solutions. Additionally, the students will share their observations, which will include data and video, on the web.

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Learner Description/Environment:

The population of the Unity School District community is 6,000 and includes the villages of Balsam Lake, Centuria and Milltown.  Our stable, pleasant, small town residential environment, where agriculture and small industry have been of economic significance for many years, is located 55 miles northeast of the Twin Cities.  Health care is provided by doctors and dentists, with clinics and hospitals available nearby.  Religious services are provided by six different denominations.

The area abounds with opportunities for cultural and recreational activities, living up to its reputation as a recreational and vacation site.  Recreational opportunities including swimming, boating, sailing, water skiing, fishing, hunting, camping, snowmobiling, golf, parks, downhill and cross-country skiing, professional sports and cultural pursuits ranging from symphony to theater and numerous art galleries, shows and museums and libraries.  Media coverage includes daily and weekly newspapers, cable TV and Twin Cities television stations.

The Unity District covers approximately 150 square miles, consisting of 11 municipalities in whole or in part (Town of Milltown, Town of Balsam Lake, Town of Georgetown, Town of Eureka, Town of Johnstown, Town of Laketown, Town of St Croix Falls, Town of Apple River, Village of Balsam Lake, Village of Centuria and Village of Milltown).

School buildings are on 100 acres in a rural setting located on State Highway 46, two miles north of Balsam Lake and 4 miles from Milltown.  High school remodeling includes K-12 Instructional Media Center completed in 1997.  K-8 remodeling/addition completed in 1998.  K-12 facility is cabled and networked with Internet access and individual computer labs at the elementary, middle and high schools.  Elementary, middle school and high school are one facility and includes:

Certified Staff:
5 Administrators
95 Certified Teaching Staff of which

  • 20.0% have Bachelors Degrees
  • 11.6% have Masters Degrees
  • 9.5% are above Bachelors Degrees
  • 18.9% are above Masters Degrees

    Student Enrollment:
    Total      Elementary EC-5     Middle School 6-8             High School  9-12
    1216           535                           276                                   405
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  • Time Frame:

    This project is designed to be implemented throughout the entire school year.  Class periods will vary from five minutes to two hours. The project will culminate with presentations to the School Board and publishing findings on the district web pages.
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     Learner Outcomes:

    Learner Outcomes: (2nd grade)

    Learner Outcomes: (7th grade)

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    Structure of the Learning:

    Due to the fact that the second graders already study the communities, environments, and what affects both of them, and the seventh graders study environmental concerns and conducting scientific studies, it was obvious that this project would be a perfect way to integrate many different state standards into one project. Since our school is fortunate enough to be located along the shores of Balsam Lake AND have close to a mile long nature trail, it is only natural to conduct a study of the impact that the nature trail has on the surrounding fragile environment. The second graders will investigate the health of the trail, finding areas that need improvement, and seeking out help from the "experts" of the nature trail, the seventh grade science instructor and his classes. Together the two groups would formulate solutions to the inherent problems within the nature trail system.

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    Students will study our nature trail, determine the problems associated with the trail, and create solutions to those problems. The students will begin the project by having a presentation by a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) agent. He will talk with them about environment, pollution, observation, problem identification and problem solving. He will challenge them to help do a study of the trail environment to help identify problems and solutions. He offers his e-mail address to the students and states that if they have any questions to email him. Following the DNR agents presentation, the students will be introduced to the project's student pages. Here they will have the opportunity to access web and local resources to acquire more background information on environment and environmental issues. This will be in a webquest type format. Information on the website we will maintain will be sent to the DNR and community members.

    At this point the students will form teams of 2nd graders and 7th graders. The teams, with appropriate facilitating by teachers, will begin to make decisions as to the details of their scientific investigation. They will consider such things as where to set up observation stations and what type of observations they want to make ( types of animal, plants, measure rainfall, position of the sun, analyze the water, etc.). They will also make decisions as to how this data will be collected (video and still pictures, statistical data.) 7th grade students will be setting up and manning observation stations along the trail..

    As the school year progresses the students will "work" the trail on a regular basis. Among the data they will collect is rainfall and the effect it may have on the trail. After each rainfall they will record, using video technology, the extent that the rain may have eroded the trail. Over time this video can be compared to measure the effects of erosion over time. Students will also analyze the water from the lake to see if the the erosion effects the quality of the water. In addition to video recording students will be using databases and spreadsheets to record numerical data. They will be making similar observations of plant, and animal life and other items they decide upon. Chuck will be working with the students and teachers in developing spreadsheets and databases in which the information and data will be collected. He will also be facilitating the creation of web pages into which the the data will be posted. Paul will be be helping the teams with the video technology and the posing of that information to the web. Greg will be working with his 2nd graders. On a regular basis students will updating the website.

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    As the year comes to a close and all the data is accumulated over the school year, now is the time for the students to "crunch the numbers." They look at all the data and pictures and design how they will present all the information to the school board. Some decide to use a web page, others Power Point and others a "news show" format. All the presentations are saved and posted on the Unity Home Page for the world to see.

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    Best Use of Technology:

    Students will use the internet and CD-Roms to acquire information about pollution, erosion etc., and its causes and effects.  Students will use portable technology, to collect and analyze data on the trail, and video technology (digital still cameras and video cameras.  The teams will develop and maintain a web site where information will be posted.

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    Assessment will be both formative (ongoing) and summative (final).  Rubrics will record the quality and quantity of the data to be collected and the extent to which each student contributes to the project.  As a major focus of this project will be the sharing of the data, the "publishing' of study results on the web, will be evaluated as well, using a rubric.  The evaluation of student performance will occur over over the length of the project and the results will be included in the student portfolio.  Rubrics for 7th graders will be more extensive than the rubrics for the 2nd graders.

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    Project Evaluation:

    Our project will be evaluated in several ways.  The extent to which the student demonstrate their outcomes will be paramount. Classroom teachers involved will keep a log tracking student progress.  We will also solicit input from the viewers to our web site and from the Department of Natural Resources via e-mail. A final review of the students suggested improvements to the nature trail and the successive work to improve the trail will be necessary. After the improvements are made, the Department of Natural Resources Agent will reinspect the nature trail and determine its fate.

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    Alignment with Standards:

    The outcomes we have established are taken directly from Wisconsin DPI standards (in compliance with district policy)

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    Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.

    Author(s): Chuck Bouthilet , Greg Paulsen, and Paul Uhren
    School: Unity School District, Balsam Lake, WI 54810
    Created: February 15, 2001 - Updated: April 18, 2001
    URL: /lincon/w01/projects/naturetrail/present.html