The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Another Short Research Project

I felt really good about the short project we did earlier this week, so I decided to have the students do another one today. We are still learning about ecology, plants, animals, and habitats, and the focus for today was on what happens when the balance of these things gets disturbed. Specifically, we were exploring the effects of pollution on ecosystems.

Much as I did earlier this week, I gave the students three basic questions to consider:

  • What is pollution?
    • Air?
    • Soil?
    • Water?
  • Why is it harmful?
  • What is a possible solution?

The students divided into groups of three and selected a type of pollution to research. Each group had a tablet, a Science textbook, and their own prior knowledge. They were initially given 30 minutes to learn about the topic and find answers to the questions, but the short project turned into a much longer one and we ended up spending almost an hour and a half working on it! After conducting their initial research, the groups were given a large sheet of poster paper and had to transfer their findings onto it. We ran out of time today, but they will share their findings with their classmates on Monday and then the posters were be displayed in the hallway.

In the process of doing this project, I learned some important things about my students:

  • They have amazing ideas! A group of boys conceived a wind-powered automobile, bombs that will clean the air, and special power plants that will remove pollutants from the atmosphere and use them as fuel to provide energy. A group of girls conceived a pump system that will pull polluted water out of a lake and, much like a dialysis machine, return clean water.
  • Once my class gets focused on a task, that will work at it all day if they are given permission to do so. Some of them may delay getting started, but once that engine is on, they will keep going forever!
  • I need to set clearer expectations for how to work effectively in a group. Some of the students have had plenty of experience working together, but there are many who struggle, especially if their group members are not their best friends. While it is nice to be friends with the people you work with (it is something I very much appreciate about my own colleagues!), it is important to recognise that we don’t always get to work with our best friends, but we can still treat our work partners with respect.

I enjoyed working with my class as they pursued their research today. I hope that they will transfer what they have learned to their independent research assignments, which are due on the 24th of this month. Now that our benchmark testing is, for the most part, finished, I am looking forward to spending more time in the computer lab researching and more time in the classroom using the tablets for a wide variety of reasons!


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