Short Research Projects
I love research! I love picking a topic, deciding what I want to know about it, and then finding the answers. I love being able to check reliable websites, up-to-date books, and talking to experts to learn more about something. I also love when people come to me with their questions because I have somehow become the expert on the topic (or I am just really good at looking things up).
And so I also love having my students do research. Some of the projects they do will take several weeks. We use time in school to research but I encourage them to research at home or at the public library. Projects like these often align to our science or social studies units and usually happen about once per quarter. This quarter students are researching fish from the Great Lakes region, similar to the project that last year’s students did. But there are shorter projects that they can do, too. Sometimes these will be a couple of days. Sometimes they are just a few minutes.
Today my students did one such short research project. Each had a copy of a booklet about invasive aquatic weeds that have afflicted the Great Lakes region and other waterways in our nation. These booklets were generously donated by our friends at the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. There were five specific plants that were discussed, so I divided the class into small groups, with each group assigned to quickly research their plant. In addition to the booklet from the Sea Grant, I gave each group a tablet so that they could conduct online research. Then I gave them three questions to answer:
- What is your plant?
- Where did it come from?
- Why is it harmful?
The groups had about 30 minutes to research and then they shared their findings with the class. When groups were presenting, the other students were expected to listen attentively so that they could ask questions at the end. Presentations took about 15 minutes, so at the end of 45 minutes, my students had some basic knowledge about hydrilla, water hyacinth, Eurasian watermilifoil, purple loosestrife, and giant salvinia. I was very pleased with both the quality of research conducted in such a short time and the presentations. All of the groups were able to answer the questions and the students listened asked good follow-ups, such as wondering how the plants “trap” boats and what ways do ecologists control the spread of these weeds.
We will be working on the bigger research projects more next week when ThinkLink testing in the computer lab is done, but I know that there are many students who are already researching their assigned fish at home. I hope we will be able to get some folks from the Sea Grant to come back this year and listen to some of the presentations!