Science and technology come together
February 29, 2008
Three teachers, 18 ninth-graders and 12 new video cameras made their way to Jackson, Wyo., over February break for a hands-on learning adventure at Teton Science School.
It was something the students and teachers at Treasure Mountain International Middle School had never done before, ninth-grade science teacher Megan Zarnetske said, but it was also something they’d like to do again: "Every day was a full day action-packed physically, academically and emotionally."
Each day, students began with an early-morning breakfast before heading outside for a day of recreation and science. The first two days, they cross-country skied while learning about the different plant communities and animals of the area. On the third day, students strapped on snowshoes and hiked along the base of the Tetons gaining knowledge about geology and ecology.
Day four brought an even bigger challenge when students were asked to design their own research project, which they conducted in the field and then analyzed back inside the school’s computer lab. Their last day was spent presenting their research projects before heading back to Park City.
The idea behind the trip was not only to learn about science in a "nontraditional way out in the wild," Zarnetske said, but also to document this unique learning process via video cameras and photographs and then post the student-made films with comments on the blog …
Technology teacher Leslie Stark said that taking the cameras which they were able to buy because of a grant from Qwest turned out better than she had hoped. "I wanted to add the cameras to bring the outdoors inside," she said, "so that the science they were learning could be shown to other students who didn’t get to go on the trip."
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Ninth-grader Colby Angelos said making the movies was "pretty cool." They would film the instructor giving a lesson, he continued, and then they would edit in the evenings, which helped him review the information automatically.
Stark added, "When they film and then edit, the students get to see what they’re doing right away; it’s immediate gratification."
Ninth-grader Andie Mueller said she like the actual filming process because "we got to show off what we know."
Adding this kind of technology, Zarnetske thinks, is essential to the learning process. "Today’s students need that," she said, adding that the knowledge students gained was positively impacted by the cameras because "giving them the cameras gave them more focus.
"They had a lot of information to process all at once, and having that creative outlet made the learning more accessible."
Zarnetske said she has seen evidence of their new knowledge now that they’re back in the classroom.
She added that being on the trip and watching the students learn in such a different way helped remind her to keep education fun. "I need to give my students as many opportunities for learning as possible not just lecturing, more hands on."
Stark estimated they will be putting together videos from the trip for the next month or so and, as they are finished, Zarnetske will show them in classes, and they will get posted on the blog as well.
For many students on the trip, this was their first time making and editing videos. For this reason, Stark held a two-hour class during the trip to teach the students how to edit and create a video.
The trip to Teton Science School seemed to accommodate students interested in science, technology or just being outdoors.
Angelos said he was more interested in the cross-country skiing the group did for the first two days and less interested in the plant and animal ecosystems they learned about while skiing.
But Allie Bowers said she came on the trip because she wanted to know more about the environment. For her, the seven hours a day the group spent outside was not only a surprise, but also got quite tiring after the first few days.
"I thought it would be more lecture-style, but we got out there a lot more than I thought we would," she said.
Despite these two very different perspectives of the trip, Angelos and Bowers both said they would do the trip again. One of the reasons was the bond they formed with the rest of the students.
"I got to know people a lot better," Angelos said.
Mueller agreed. "I didn’t know half of the group before I got there," she said. "Everyone became so close by the time we got back."
Zarnetske plans on using the video cameras for documenting future science curricula, like the wetlands thaw project they do every year.
As Stark and Zarnetske become more familiar with the cameras and the process students take to complete a video, they hope to open up filming to other teachers interested in incorporating technology into their lesson plans.
They said that, while it was challenging, they would like to do the trip again next year and hopefully, with all the exposure the videos and blogs will give it, they’ll attract even greater interest from students.