Reflection: Problem-based Approaches Communities & Ecosystems (Day# 1 of 4) - Section 2: Anticipatory Set ("Hook")


Thinking about complex concepts is an aim for my students each and every day.

Kimberly Tanner suggests that, "One simple way to scaffold wait time is to explicitly require students to write out one idea, two ideas, three ideas that would capture their initial thoughts on how to answer the question posed. This act of writing itself may even lead students to discover points of confusion or key insights. In addition...this writing can hold students accountable in thinking and recording their ideas." (Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity, p. 323)

In the attached a sample student Hog Farm KWL, there are several unexpected and insightful thoughts. First, she questions why certain farm animals were (originally) chosen for farming. This alone is a very heady question. Author and professor Jared Diamond investigates this exhaustively over the course of two full chapters in the seminal book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. What seems to be a naive question is actually very complicated. I was pleasantly surprised by this question! Good for her!

Futhermore, this student asks, "Relation to biology?" Isn't school supposed to be about relevance and expanding and enriching one's worldview? If so, and I hope it is, then here is a student who, initially, seems to wonder about the connection. This is exactly what I wanted to see. To go through the back door, so-to-speak, and draw a connecting line between two seemingly unconnected things only reinforces what the student experiences and learns. Uncommon insights usually come from uncommon places. Hog farms. Poop in excess. Eutrophication. Cause and effect.

As an aside, the student's first question arose after I explained the odd, yet intriguing new innovation of creating seaweed to taste like bacon; a line of inquiry related to the hog farms and the overwhelming love of bacon for many of us. It certainly piqued her attention and I hope it will for you too!


  Problem-based Approaches: The problem of poop...
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Communities & Ecosystems (Day# 1 of 4)

Unit 7: 7) Ecology ("Population Interactions")
Lesson 13 of 16

Objective: Students will understand the structure of ecosystems and how their members interact in complex ways in order to survive.

Big Idea: All living organisms and the environment are interconnected.

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