3.1 – into the depths of ‘extended practical investigations’

So, I am a little ashamed to admit that this year is the first time in my teaching career (this is my 6th year) that I have had a class complete an extended practical investigation.

My first school didn’t offer it, not wanting to do it as a ‘superficial credit counting’ exercise. I agreed with this, if you were going to do it, it should be in am authentic context.

So I was a little skeptical about embarking on it this year. Being the newbie, I pretty much followed the lead (I am a big believer in living in a house for a bit before you go tearing down walls so you tear down the right ones). I did get a wee touch on it though, and my amazing colleague made a class OneNote with all the resources on it, and students had the option of using the OneNote to make their log books digital.

The context is health of local waterways. Which I felt was a little fixed…. but after the fact, it was awesome. It got the students out into the rivers, streams and estauries around the Taieri. It got them thinking about factors that affect these waterways, and the impacts that natural features (such as rapids or waterfalls) or man made features (such as irrigation ponds) can have.

But it was the 2 days in the Chem labs that clinched it for me. I guess it would be the same if you could have 2 days solid Chem at school – but being at the uni did give the students a sense of independence and ‘being grown up’. And they got to ‘do Science’. They had to trial different concentrations, work through little snags and complications. They had to have a more thorough understanding of the chemical equations and relationships than just a cursory I need it for an assessment. They used skills from multiple standards, including some from Level 2. They did Science. And they used their heads.

So even though they had a ‘narrow project’ choice, it was still the best ‘Nature of Science’ experience I have had as an assessment for seniors. It was a great 2 days. I only hope they get into their write up and I get to learn more about the local waterways when I am marking their work.

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