Saturday, February 20, 2016

Let's Take a Trip to Mars (Soil Investigation)

We started this project this past week, and the kids are loving it!  The Friday before we started it, I introduced the "hook".  A "hook" (in PBL) is something that gets the students really excited about what they are going to learn about. It could be a field trip, a Skype or GH (Google Hangout) session, or even guest speakers.  I decided to go with an edible experiment about the layers of soil. Who doesn't like yummy experiments!?  

This activity is included in Kristen Vibas' "Soil" file that can be found on TpT. The students loved learning about the different layers of soil with some of their favorite snacks!  

The following week, the students were placed in cooperative learning groups, and they were introduced to their task.  They were also assigned a job within their groups.  The jobs are project manager, communications manager, time and materials manager, workshop manager, and technology manager.  

Months ago, I reached out to Kevin Honeycutt and Ginger Lewman via Twitter to get some ideas about our upcoming unit in science, soil.  Kevin Honeycutt came up with the picture seen above, and I knew that I had to give this experience to my students!  We spent the first day working on "What Do We Know...What Do We Need To Know".  I expressed to them that their "needs to know" would help to drive any future workshops that we have with this project.  This is the first time that I have used workshops during a PBL project, and I am regretting that I have never used them before.  One of the "needs to know" that I knew I wanted to address was their interest in martian soil.  

At a recent conference, TCEA, I attended a session led by Jaime Donally, and she introduced me to Nearpod VR experiences.  I reached out to my Instructional Technology Director, and she got me a district account with Nearpod. I could not wait to develop a lesson!  The first workshop that I conducted with my workshop managers was a Nearpod lesson with VR experiences.  The students were going to get to experience Mars!!

And what an experience it was!!! The conversations that evolved from this experience were incredible.  You could see the excitement and authentic interest in the topic of Mars and soil.  With some of these conversations came questions that I did not have the answers for.  So what did we do?  We found the experts by using Twitter!  We reached out to Scott Kelly and Kevin Honeycutt!  Scott Kelly is currently on the International Space Station, and we are still hoping for a Twitter connection.  Mr. Honeycutt got us in touch with Cosmosphere, a Smithsonian-inspired museum dedicated to inspiring innovation through science education and honoring the history of space exploration.  This wonderful museum responded to our questions all day, and we are now working on getting a Skype or GH session with them!  We love the power of Twitter!!

The students are working hard on learning more about what they need to create a self-sustaining garden for their 5-year stay on Mars.  This will do more for them than any worksheet about soil will ever do!  Stay tuned in!!

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