Reflection: Trust and Respect ENRICHMENT: A walk through the chaparral - Section 4: Reflecting on a Walk through the Chaparral


As you can see in this example of a student reflection, not all students wrote a particularly "science facing" reflection.  This particular student included few, if any, vocabulary words from the course in their reflection.  Looking at the picture they chose to include, they might have easily discussed the fact that the water in the pool here but not at other points along the trail was an example of a limiting factor that prevented populations of trees and larger plants from growing in the hills surrounding this stream.  Their question of how long the fire-damaged landscape would take to be "normal again" could have invoked the term secondary succession.  They may have talked about how the water itself was not simply a natural resource for the community of organisms, but that it actually provided habitat for the fish this student observed. 

No, none of these opportunities for explicit connection to course content seemed to be taken by this student when writing their reflection... so am I to deem this student's work, and perhaps this whole lesson as a failure?  The obvious answer is no, this was not a failure.  I know this because I have had many discussions with this particular student in the interim between this lesson and the end of the school year, where I saw their grade raise from a D to a B+ from the first midterm of the year until the end of the second semester.  This student expressed to me multiple times how much they enjoyed this field trip and how it not only got them to really focus on the class, it also inspired them to ask their parents to take the family out for occasional hikes as a low-cost, healthy, invigorating recreational activity.

I'll admit that this lesson probably didn't resonate as strongly with all of my students, but if I were to look only at the work turned in by this student, I'd be left with no real idea how much it resonated with them. 

I know as educators we're supposed to be intensely focused on mastery of standards and achievement of learning objectives, but it's important to take a more holistic view of our students.  After all, they're not widgets we're trying to assemble to state-mandated specifications, they're the people that will inherit and pass on our notions of community and civility to future generations.

As an environmental science teacher, I have to step back from the standards and realize that it takes more than a worksheet and a textbook to get students to care about the environment and their role in its preservation.  That more profound mastery of the lesson objective takes personal interaction.  So I hope I'm not being too controversial to suggest that any chance to provide a forum or focal point for students to gain and express a more personal interest in school, their own education, and most importantly, the real world around them, is a undoubtedly a sound investment on the part of an educator. 

  But the standard says WRITING... on the importance of conversations with your students.
  Trust and Respect: But the standard says WRITING... on the importance of conversations with your students.
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ENRICHMENT: A walk through the chaparral

Unit 3: Ecology
Lesson 8 of 8

Objective: Students will be able to identify examples of ecological content on a hike through a nature reserve.

Big Idea: There's only so much about the environment that can be communicated in a classroom. For students to truly understand ecology and the environment, they need to experience nature first hand.

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