Science, Education, and Science Education

classroom applications
May 24th, 2012 by Luann

Scavenging For Science

Many years ago, I needed something engaging for AP Chemistry students once their exam was over.  I found a scavenger hunt, hard copy as this was the olden days, handed out by the late Dr. Cliff Schrader at a conference.  I’m forever grateful to Cliff for so many things he gave out freely to anyone who asked.  Among so many other things, he taught me to share.

I reworked the list a little to reflect some things my students knew or in which they had shown interest.  The first few years, the kids worked in groups and competed to see which group could collect the most items the most quickly.

Why should the seniors have all the fun?  asked the Chemistry 1 juniors.  I gave them a go, and they had a great time with the project for a few years.  I saw for the first time, students making genuine connections in their learning and the real world. On their own. Wow.

Item #7

A parent made me re-think the group work portion.  In a scathing phone call she told me how impossible this project was, adding that I was indeed insane and had no business in the classroom. I still remember her words. Why would I assign such a “difficult and time-consuming grade” at the end of the year, when her son had lots of family plans?   Interestingly, her niece had completed the project the year before and loved it…. the phone-call-mom’s son, notsomuch.  He had a reputation of not holding up his part in a group in any classroom and contributed very little to his scavenger hunt group, I observed during class work time.   I’d seen a group of 3 AP Chemisty students complete the assignment in 4 class days after their test, with each student reporting 1-2 hours out of class to do some collecting.  I hadn’t thought this was unreasonable; the Chemistry 1 students worked in groups of 4, had 8 class days encompassing 2 weekends. The only “homework” was the actual collection of items; the tagging, weighing, measuring, collaborating, etc were all done in class. But I digress.

Group grades, once respected as a means to measure collaborative skills, began to fade from my classroom in 2001. This, and other, projects evolved to encourage collaboration, but each student produced his own collection and rationale.  I expected to see more identical items with identical explanations than I did. The authenticity required in the project made cheating difficult, as in a student couldn’t copy without understanding.  If the identical items and explanations met the criteria, I was just appreciative that learning had taken place.  If the duplicate work was incorrect, it got called out during the classroom defense described in the scoring guide.  Students wisely made sure they could defend each choice they made. Interestingly, if someone came up with a really unusual item, he generally stayed quiet about it.

Six years ago, I wrote a Biology version. After the first year, as technology was becoming more available, I reworked the instructions and wrote a set of suggestions for using technology to record and display student findings. I handed it to an honors biology class. Here are links below are to their work in Spring, 2010.

Revisions are in the works. There are a zillion scavenger hunt versions on the Internet now, as del as completed versions of student work. I’m evolving this project into something else, something I haven’t quite figured out yet. Ideas?

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