Reflection: Unit Planning Introduction of Spider Biodiversity Quest - Section 1: Warm-up


I started transitioning to PBL (project-based learning/problem-based learning) when I noticed two things; students were not strong at problem solving/independent learning and students had memorized quite a few science facts/concepts but could not apply them or explain them with any sort of detail.  The nature of PBL units puts students in the drivers seat, forcing them to make some decisions and learn content in order to achieve the final goal.

Because students are not used to having this much responsibility in the class, it is important to provide a support structure that assists students in making the transition.  That is the main purpose of the checklist.  In a true PBL, students are likely to be given a task and they decide what they need to do to accomplish that task.  This unit provides more support to students by providing the learning experiences (lessons) students need to gain the information they need.  Students still choose how to apply what they know, which is challenging enough for middle school students who are just developing the skills they need to become independent learners.

This project set up has students learn some new information and then determine how they can use that information in new ways that make sense with their final project and show what they know.  Students have trouble with this as they want to take the activities they did during the lessons and copy them exactly into their final project.  To help them adapt to this new way of doing things, I keep referring to the project rubric and ask the students if their work meets that criteria and coaching them to push their thinking deeper (for an example of this see the video in the warm of of the lesson Human Impacts On Biodiversity).  I like to have the rubric posted and have the sections that relate to our current lessons (check ins) highlighted so students are continuously asking themselves "how can I use this?" or "how can I show what I know in a new way that makes sense with my project?"  I have found this to be an effective method for getting students to actually read and regularly used the grading rubric during the development of the project.

  Why PBL?
  Unit Planning: Why PBL?
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Introduction of Spider Biodiversity Quest

Unit 5: Biodiversity and Spiders
Lesson 2 of 9

Objective: SWBAT 1. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations. 2. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Big Idea: Students investigate the idea that small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another.

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