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Schoolyard Jungle: What's Out There?

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Keywords: Plant Identification, Plant Field Guide, Ecology
Subject(s): Science, Life Science
Grade 7
School: Oberon Middle School, Arvada, CO
Planned By: Erin Mayer
Original Author: Erin Mayer, Arvada
Ecology is a primary area of focus every year in my 7th grade life science classroom. Oberon Middle School is fortunate to have its own outdoor classroom. Originally a bus parking lot, the site was converted into an outdoor classroom through the hard work of a group of dedicated students and teachers over 10 years ago. Today, we continue to incorporate the outdoor classroom into the ecology unit, primarily through a field guide project.

In the Schoolyard Jungle: Whatís Out There? project, students will take photographs of plants they collect from the outdoor classroom using OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAS. They will then use TOOL FACTORY SOFTWARE to create user friendly plant field guides. In addition, they will also use TOOL FACTORY SOFTWARE to design an Oberon Middle School Outdoor Classroom website that will showcase many of the plants located in the outdoor classroom. Finally, some students will use TOOL FACTORY SOFTWARE to create a database of plants found in the outdoor classroom. Every year, as new plants are identified, the students will continue to update and add to the library, website, and database.

Part A: Field Guide
Students will visit the outdoor classroom and locate plants from at least 5 different categories (for example, wildflowers and herbal plants). After taking a picture of the plant using an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA, they will remove a small sample which they will use to identify the plant (to the genus and species level) using published field guides and plant identification keys.

After identifying their plants, the students will use TOOL FACTORY WORKSHOP WORD PROCESSOR to create a field guide page for each plant sample. In addition to including a downloaded picture of the plant on the field guide page, the page will also include pertinent information the students have uncovered about the plant including itsí common and scientific name and general characteristics of the plant and the environment it was collected from. The students will also have the option of manipulating their pages with WHOLE CLASS FRESCO to make them as appealing, attractive, and user friendly as possible. After each studentís field guide pages are completed, they will print their pages and bind them together. We will then create an Oberon Middle School Outdoor Classroom Library filled with student created field guides that will be used as resources in future years.

Part B: Plant Database
Every year I teach at least one honors level science class. Although we follow the same curriculum guidelines for this class, I differentiate their lessons in order to challenge them to think at a higher, more critical level. I will differentiate the Schoolyard Jungle project by requiring the students to create a database of the information they collect on their plants using TOOL FACTORY WORKSHOP DATABASE. Not only will photographs of the plants, taken with the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAS, be included in the database but also, all pertinent information discovered on each plant sample.

The database project will be student organized and student created; I will act only as a facilitator. The students will design the database as a class, deciding on both how they would like to organize and present the data and also how to avoid entering data on the same plants multiple times. After the database is created during the first year of the project, it will become a resource students can use to identify their plant samples in future years. Students in future classes will also continue to use TOOL FACTORY WORKSHOP DATABASE to add to the database as they find and identify new plant species in the outdoor classroom.

Part C: Plant Web Site
In the final facet of the project, students will use TOOL FACTORY HOME PAGE and MULTIMEDIA LAB V to create an Oberon Middle School Outdoor Classroom Plant Resource Website. I will choose a representative sample of pages from the studentís field guides and with their help, place their information on the website. As new plants are pictured, collected and identified every year, we will continue to add to and update the website. In future years, students will be able to use this student generated website as a resource to classify their collected plants.
Materials: Database, Word Processor, Batteries, Camera Bags, Point and Shoot, Mobile Labs, Web Page
Other Items: 1 HP DeskJet 6940 Color Inkjet Printer, $ 130.00 each, total of $130.00
2 Black ink cartridge, $ 22.50 each, total of $45.00
2 Color ink cartridge, $ 27.00 each, total of $54.00
1 Binding Machine, $ 70.00 each, total of $70.00
4 ProClick Spines (25 packs), $ 12.00 each, total of $48.00