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In Touch with Nature

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Keywords: Ipod Touches, Animal Observation, Nature, Data Analysis
Subject(s): Video, Social Skills, Technology, Autism, Geography, Podcasting, Writing, Reading, Photography, Social Studies, English/Language Arts, Spelling, Grammar, Science, Journalism, Speech and Language
Grades K through 5
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Kessler Elementary School, Helena, MT
Planned By: Justine Huschka
Original Author: Justine Huschka, Helena
The purpose of this project is to pair our Nature Space, or outdoor classroom, and IPod Touches to enhance student experience and integrate all skills. In making nature accessible to our students through our outdoor classroom, we have made great progress. The Nature Space has proved as an excellent resource to enrich the educational experience for all types of learners and by using the new technology in conjunction, we will spark student interest. As students begin to make this connection and apply real-world experience with academics, student achievement will increase.
During the development of Nature Space, we have observed the excitement with lessons taking place outdoors, while other teachers, who had the opportunity use iPod Touches on a small scale, witnessed a spike in student engagement also. We want to amplify the engagement by using technology outdoors to make the technology/nature experience exciting. Using an iPod Touch helps individualize and personalized instruction, and the students get the chance to have a hands-on experience with immediate feedback.
The outdoor classroom that we have developed has been in collaboration with many community partners. We’ve worked with Home Depot, the National Audubon Society, the National Guard, our Parent Partnership, and other community volunteers. All of these partners have supported our goals for an outdoor classroom and will continue to do so. We want to guarantee the hard work and support of these partners is beneficial, and by pairing iPod Touches with the outdoor classroom, we will enhance the experience made possible for our students.
The success of this ongoing project will be established by many different benchmarks. Throughout the first phase of the project, we will continue to develop the Nature Space while observing the best days to watch birds in the habitat. The days decided on will become our “count” days, meaning, students will take the Touches to the habitat to aid in bird identification, tracking data, food measurements, time the birds stayed at the habitat, etc. To ensure success, the students need to become familiar with the technology, observational techniques, and data analysis. There will be activities conducted to demonstrate data analysis and show understanding before we send data to Cornell Labs. Our benchmarks will be as follows:
• April 2011: Purchase of Ipod Touches, download related applications, and experiment with the applications. Contact Cornell Labs and continue enrollment for the 2011-2012 feeder program. Birds and Beasley’s of Helena will visit with specified classrooms to aid in setting up the feeders to attract a high population of birds.
• May 2011:Conduct a “trial period” over the course of this month to analyze results by graphing, recording, and identifying utilizing the Ipod Touches. The findings will be reported to the Nature Space Committee and teachers involved in the process.
• August-September 2011: Purchase remainder of Ipod Touches through monies donated by our school’s Parent Partnership committee and other grants applied for. Fourth and Second graders will conduct more experimental data collection and analyze that data before we begin sending accurate data to Cornell University.
• Nature Space will pair with Montana Wild to help develop their habitat.
• November 2011- April 2012:Classes involved in the Nature Space Feeder Program will collect data by observing and identifying bird population through the use of the Ipod Touches. We will communicate our findings and data by sending our results to Cornell Labs through Ipod Touches.
The Feeder Watch program, in conjunction with the use of technology in nature, will integrate all content areas. Science: Using the Scientific Method, observe nature and animals to conduct data analysis and transfer findings through technologically advanced methods. Social Studies: Focus on culture and community interaction, define regions of bird migration. Art: Create still life drawings of the animals observed and transform them into clay creations. We will also be finishing the benches for the Nature Space that we have created with two Art classes at Capitol High using tiles and cement. Language Arts: Reporting findings and writing research papers on the birds of the students’ choice. The papers will be submitted and edited by the classroom teachers, and eventually submitted to a National Newspaper dedicated to School Feeder Programs. Math: Students will demonstrate an understanding of the value of charting, measuring, building, and analyzing data. That data will be translated through the Ipod Touches and reported back to us through student creation and Cornell’s analysis.
The success of this project will be measured through classroom assessments (formative, summative, and in the form of observing and analyzing the process), and the feedback from Cornell Labs, volunteers, and students. We will be creating classroom graphs and charts to help monitor the observations and will use Ipods to identify species of Birds in the Nature Space and communicate findings with classes and Cornell Labs. With the Ipod Touches that we will be purchasing, we will create podcasts demonstrating student understanding and then present the culmination of the data collected. We will assess student ability to utilize the tools and knowledge they have gained through the cooperative project. The podcasts, charts, graphs, and data sent to Cornell will all be ways that this project is assessed and results can be communicated to other classes, community members, and other schools that would like to become involved.
Strategies we will use will be self-reflective, portfolio work, accurate data analysis in the form of charts, graphs, online information, and eventually research papers written from experience and research. Each objective/benchmark will ideally be met each month that it is addressed. It will be an ongoing process and each month assessments will be given, dealing with the topics mentioned. Lesson plans are in the works for each benchmark to be reached and will be changed as necessary to compensate for weather-related issues. Our goal is to teach our students how to become technologically literate while applying curricular knowledge. We want to “open their eyes” to ideas that have been looked passed and unite their technology skills with outdoor worlds.
We have our Nature Space funded and almost completely finished, we just need to integrate the technology and we are in need of a classroom set of Ipod touches. These will be useful because they are portable and will provide a way to communicate with Cornell University while outdoors.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Cross Curriculum Ideas were mentioned up above in the project description.
We will be correlating with other Nature Groups in our Community to help them develop the same type of programs. We will also be helping other schools in the district understand data analysis and our program content and benchmarks.
Links: Feeder Watch Program
Materials: Mobile Labs, Video Tools, Flash/USB Drives, Writing
Other Items: 10 Ipod Touches with Retina Technology, $299.00 each, total of $2990.00
2 Flip Videos/Flip Cameras, $229.00 each, total of $458.00