Friday, February 26, 2010

FRI'd Echinoderms

A few years ago, I went through a teacher training called, "FRI", an acronym for the "Florida Reading Initiative".

Unlike most professional development in the education world, this training was actually about helping kids learn!

Imagine that.

Most of our trainings these days are all about form filling, accountability, and interpreting data ... test data, demographic data, data data data.
Professional development has become data form filling lessons that are "CYA" for administrators because they are under the NCLB gun.

This week, I dusted off my FRI binder and pulled out a favorite from the many activities within.

The activity is called Product Performance and it consists of a full page of product ideas, including, but way beyond the usual reports, posters, etc.

The idea of the Product Performance list is that no matter the topic the kids are working on, they must produce a product from the list.That product must educate us about the current topic.

A few examples of topics: job interview, eulogy, play, wanted poster, epitaph, film, graffiti, diorama, marriage proposal, sermon, journal, story cube, petition, photo essay, bumper sticker, comic strip, interview, food ... it goes on and on.

I once had a kid do a resume from a mangrove tree. The tree was applying for an environmental protection job with the US Coast Guard. The mangrove listed all of it's very fine (and real) contributions to the health of the marine ecosystem.
It was great!

This week in Marine Science, we were finishing up a unit on Echinoderms, so it seemed like a good time to spring this product project list on the kids.

I told them they had to produce two products from the list, either two on their own or one alone and one group project.

Everywhere they turned they had to make choices ...
  • What topic in Echinoderms to I focus on??
  • What products will I make?
  • Should I work in a group or just do both of them all by myself?

I tell ya, it brought tears of joy to my eyes watching them stress out for a change.

(Quick refresher: Echinoderms are starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, and the crinoid clan.)

Here's a model of a sea cucumber spewing sticky threads from it's anus as a horseshoe crab attacks. It's a defensive tactic called "Entanglement".
Some creative modeling and a can of silly string created a memorable demonstration.
The video of this demonstration is pretty funny, but I won't post it here for privacy reasons.

This is a starfish cake showing the water vascular system inside a starfish. The student has it accurately portrayed from the madreporite to the tube feet. Go here to see a diagram of the real thing.

My understanding is that this starfish was eaten by predators right after class.

This guy loves wood shop, so when he had a chance to pick his own product, he went for a diorama. He did a great job creating "Echinoderm Beach". The card contains information, front and back, about the phylum Echinodermata.

A story cube about endangered species. Each side of the cube contains information about the topic.
I used the product list on my Environmental Science classes also. They were working on Biodiversity and they are a great example of diversity themselves ... younger, less mature, and much less adept at reading than the honors Marine Science students.
They are often a behavior challenge and always a teaching challenge as skill levels in the same class range from almost unable to read, to college level, but 90% of them have below average reading skills.
When you don't read well, your self-esteem takes a beating every day. Any kind of motivation begins slipping away as failures mount up. This is the class where I am always poking and prodding ... trying anything to spark interest.
Would they buy in to this?

Yes, they did! For two days they built, wrote, drew, taped, computed, and generally produced!!
And no discipline problems.
And no heads down, trying to sleep in class!
And I know you shouldn't start sentences with the word "And", but just one more ...
And they gave me great stuff!
I think each of them became mini-experts in the Biodiversity topics they worked on. They had to dig out the info just like always, but they were enthused about the product they were making, so they needed to comprehend what they were reading.
I think I'll just let their products stand as their test for this chapter.
I think they earned that.
Y'all have a good weekend.
I feel like celebrating.


SophieMae said...

And they'll remember this!
Good on ya, FC, for fanning some dying embers. Does my heart good. 8-]

Miz S said...

From a teacher of little 'uns to a teacher of big(ish) 'uns: well done. Have a great weekend.

Cathy S. said...

What a great way to learn. They will remember those projects forever. A+ for the teacher!

Sandcastle Momma said...

Bravo! I just wish every student could have a teacher as creative as you are. What a great way to get them thinking and reading and learning.

P.S. I got treasure in the mail today! I'll let you know how they do. Thanks.

kathy a. said...

oh, yay! what great projects!

Dani said...

Great job FC!!

TROLL Y2K said...

Your students are very fortunate to have a Cracker Teacher who prefers life in a rural (and mostly poor) area. Quite sure you'd make bigger bucks in an affluent School district.

edifice rex said...

I always loved it when we got to make something (no surprise, huh?) when I was in school and I was fortunate enough that I had many teachers that used teaching plans like this. I remember making, amongst other things, a rocket, books, dioramas, our solar system, posters, sculpture and a huge pinata.

Dorothy said...

Wonderful post, they will remember you for ever..I had a Business law teacher in 1963 I still respect, remember, and who had a very positive influence on in my life to this day.

Dorothy from grammology

Anonymous said...

Go FC! You deserve to celebrate!

I wish I had had a teacher like you. I was told the things I wasn't good at. Oh well.

Have a good weekend..........p

Did it MY way said...

Job well done FC. I can see you love your work.

See Ya

cndymkr / jean said...

I totally would have rocked the starfish cake. Any class that allows cakes to be part of the project is wonderful. These kids will always remember what they learned doing these projects. Great job.

Floridacracker said...

Thanks y'all!

They are all different ... that's the really challenging part.

elpbulls said...

I wanna be like you when I grow up!! LOL Love you!!!